High-earning migrants and promising students will find it easier to work in Britain as the Government aims to ensure only “the right people are coming here”, the Immigration Minister said.
Damian Green said middle managers, unskilled labourers and those seeking benefits would be kept out as the Government sought only those migrants who “add to the quality of life in Britain”.
It is time to move away from the debate over numbers, be more selective, and ask “how we can benefit from immigration”, he said. His call came after the Government’s immigration advisers found there were up to 23 fewer jobs for British workers for every additional 100 working migrants coming from outside the European Union.
The Migration Advisory Committee said considering the impact of migration on national output, Gross Domestic Product, “does not present a true picture”, and that the economic well-being of the resident population should be the focus instead.
“I believe it changes the whole intellectual basis of the immigration debate,” Mr Green said.
“It supports a more selective approach to non-EU migration. We need to know not just that the right numbers of people are coming here, but that the right people are coming here.”
The Government was considering changing the rules “so that jobs for high earners do not need to be advertised here first”, he added. “That would make it easier for employers to recruit the most economically valuable migrants.”
Mr Green said he also wanted to bring in a new route to make it easier for “international students who have engaged in entrepreneurial activity during their university studies and who want to stay on to develop their ideas”.
But bringing in any migrants who would be economically dependent on the state or who can “play no role in the life of this country” is unacceptable, he said. Instead “everyone who comes here must be selected to make a positive contribution”.
New specialist routes will be developed further to improve the visa system for short-term business visitors and entertainers.
The Government has pledged to cut net migration from the current 242,000 to “tens of thousands” , with crackdowns on forced and sham marriages, bogus students and an annual cap on immigrants coming from outside the EU.
Mr Green said there will be tough new rules on family migration, claiming the current interpretations of Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights – the right to a family life – had led to a “ridiculous” situation which caused people to question the whole concept of human rights.
“That is not healthy for anyone,” he said. “It is also dangerous for there to be a long-term stand-off between Parliament and judges.”
He went on: “The rules will reflect how the conditions we set for entry and the right to remain are in our view proportionate.”
But the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants warned the speech was “laying the ground work for a hammer blow to the human rights of cross-border partners and their families”. Chief executive Habib Rahman, said: “They’ve already been hit with an age minimum – though we defeated that – language requirements and ever-increasing visa fees. Now they face what is likely to be an unreasonably high income threshold.
“One might argue this Government has it in for poor people who fall in love with anyone who’s not resident in the UK.”
But Sir Andrew Green of campaign group Migration Watch said the speech showed the Government was “determined to get the numbers down”.
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