Arshad Chaudhry: Don’t close doors on enterprising immigrants

THE Office for National Statistics shows that net migration into the UK rose by 21 per cent in 2010 from 147,000 to 243,000, putting the coalition’s plans to cut immigration down to 100,000 into jeopardy.

Some perspective is required. Virtually all of the increase is due to inward migration from Eastern Europe due to high unemployment in those countries.

There are 555,000 Polish workers in the UK, more than the Irish and Indians. These are all economic migrants, taking the jobs of British workers.

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It seems that further stringent measures will have to be taken by the Government in an effort to achieve its targets. The axe is likely to fall on migrants from non-EU countries, skilled workers and students, as these are the only groups of migrants that the Government has the ability to influence.

However the economic case for migration has not been considered – it is simply being treated as a political football to score points.

Restricting skilled workers, students and entrepreneurs from non-EU counties will not help an already struggling economy out of its malaise.

The coalition has already restricted migrants from non-EU countries, particularly those from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. These comprise of dependants and students, not economic migrants making British workers redundant.

Many migrants from the Indian sub-continent are entrepreneurs who add value to UK Plc, starting businesses and regenerating inner cities by creating jobs. This contributes £37bn to the economy.

Asian entrepreneurs have also brought vigour and passion, transforming the economic scene of the country. Those who arrived in the UK with little more than the clothes they were wearing are now well-established and prominent in business and professional life.

This is self-evident across Yorkshire. In a generation or two, we have witnessed the renaissance of decaying inner cities.

Restrictions on students coming from the sub-continent is putting economic pressure on British universities who were charging them full unsubsidised fees.

If we look back over the past 30 years or so, the pattern of migration into the UK will provide some startling statistics.

In the late 70s and early 80s when there was a lot of hue and cry over immigration from the Indian sub-continent, the net migration was virtually zero. A reason? Britain was not in the EEC straitjacket and obliged to provide unrestricted movement of European economic migrants.

These Asian immigrants saw Britain as their home, worked hard and started small businesses and over the years these little corner shops thrived and changed the economic landscape of the country. By 2005 the net migration figure got up to 190,000, around 60,000 less than what it is at present. The impact of EU immigration was beginning to make a difference.

Looking ahead, some method of restraining economic migration needs to be found. Possibly charging immigrants a fee which they are obliged to repay out of their earnings in the UK. The fees could be used to support entrepreneurship. This should also encourage skilled migrants seeking higher earnings and have less of an impact on the UK unemployment rate.

On a humanitarian basis, there will always be people seeking to better their prospects unless the inequities in the world are dealt with. Clearly the developing world needs greater support in this respect.

But immigration of skilled workers and entrepreneurs should be encouraged. There is a little known method of gaining entry to the UK as an entrepreneur, using the entrepreneur’s visa which is given for a specified period to individuals who invest in the UK.

Extending this, together with charging higher fees from economic migrants, will encourage the right kind of migration and discourage illegal immigration as well as helping UK Plc.

The coalition’s policy does not appear to be working at present and is unhelpful in times of recession where unemployment is over nine per cent and the future looks so uncertain.

Arshad Chaudhry is a Leeds businessman and the chairman of the Asian Business Development Network