Saturday, November 6, 2010

DJs, Kabaddi players, comedians and models beat British government's migrant cap

Magicians, disc jockeys, waitresses, comedians and models have all benefited from a route into the UK excluded from the Government’s immigration cap.

The revelations intensified the row over the Coalition’s decision to exempt intra-company transfers from the annual cap on non-EU economic immigrants.

As the furore continues, Home Secretary Theresa May will today make her first major immigration speech. She will announce a crackdown on foreign students and a new salary limit for economic migrants.

On Wednesday it emerged that Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable had successfully argued that intra-company transfer of ‘skilled workers’ from abroad was crucial to the competitiveness of British business. But internal government figures show the route has been exploited by companies seeking to bring in entertainers or – in some cases – traditionally low-paid staff.

They have included commentators, comedians, ice hockey coaches, magicians, acupuncturists, disc jockeys, models, and polo grooms and players. In recent years, businesses have even brought in waitresses from outside the EU. One source said: ‘We were told they are bringing in skilled workers. We have to be honest and say they are not all brain surgeons or rocket scientists.’

The biggest number of intra-company transfers involved IT workers – of whom more than 65,000 were allowed in between 1999 and 2008. The unemployment rate among British IT workers is around 16 per cent. In total, Labour allowed in around 350,000 people using the intra-company transfers route.

Tory MP James Clappison, who unearthed the figures, said the Coalition had to be alive to the dangers of excluding intra-company transfers from the flagship cap policy. ‘There have to be legitimate questions about the intra-company transfer system when one looks at the numbers of people, and the types of work they are doing,’ he said. ‘They are ignoring the labour market in the UK and also in the EU to bring people in from outside. One company has brought in 19,000 people.’

In her speech, Mrs May is expected to promise that the intra-company transfer system – while not part of the cap – will still be subject to a new salary limit. Companies must pay any employee they wish to bring in a minimum wage, which could be fixed at £40,000 or more.

A review of the student visa system will be announced, with the aim of slashing the 300,000 visas handed out every year.

Mrs May is also expected to promise that net migration will be halved – taking it from almost 200,000 a year to the ‘tens of thousands’.


Asylum-seekers are not criminals Australia's Immigration Minister tells angry residents

In that case, why does the government jail them?

Chris Bowen has rejected claims people campaigning against detention centres being built in their communities are racists. But the Immigration Minister insists asylum-seekers are safe and unlikely to escape detention and break the law.

Mr Bowen is trying to hose down community concerns after a meeting in Northam, about 100km northeast of Perth, on Thursday night in which the Department of Immigration and the local council answered questions from angry residents about the plan to house 1500 asylum-seekers in the community.

West Australian Labor senator Glenn Sterle was invited to the meeting but left when he was denied a chance to address the nearly 700-strong audience by the meeting's facilitator, former state Labor MP Gavan Troy.

Many residents raised concerns about the detention centre's impact on Northam's already strained and understaffed hospital and the contingency plans in place if there were a riot.

Senator Sterle condemned the constant "heckling and throwing of racist statements" for drowning out what were some genuine concerns about the centre. Mr Bowen said he believed in freedom of speech and people should be able to raise views.

The meeting was dominated by people voicing intense hostility to the detention centre and to asylum-seekers, with some labelling them "criminals" who could escape and attack local women.

Mr Bowen said there had been very few escapes from detention centres. "I'm not aware of any evidence that people who do escape from detention centres on very rare occasions undertake criminal acts," he said. "All the evidence shows that people while their claims are being processed conduct themselves in a perfectly appropriate way."

Liberal Premier Colin Barnett called on the Gillard government to halve the number of male asylum-seekers planned for the Northam detention centre, saying he understood the "great anxiety" expressed by furious locals. But he said T-shirts with "Bomb their boats" written on them worn by two residents at the meeting were inappropriate. He said it showed the issue needed to be handled carefully and there should have been proper prior consultation.

Northam resident Chris David yesterday claimed the meeting had been hijacked by a vocal minority bent on fearmongering. Another resident, Nigel Sutton, said he was shocked when he heard One Nation state deputy president Lyn Vickery tell the meeting asylum-seekers would "slit your throat".


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