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Pressure mounts on UK govt as more MPs flag skilled-migrant visa issue

Vidya Ram London | Updated on May 21, 2018

Legislators to look into possible legal action against Home Office

Political pressure on the British government over its use of rules designed to stop terrorists and criminals settling in the country against highly-skilled migrants, including from India, continued to build as members of both Houses of Parliament took up the issue with the government. One member of the House of Lords even suggested potential legal action against the Home Office.

“It’s an appalling situation,” Lord Taverne, a member of the House of Lords, told this paper. He added that he would be working with other politicians in both the Lords and Commons and a campaign group set up by a group of highly-skilled migrants impacted by the rules to consider whether a legal case could be mounted against the Home Office. Writing in the Guardian over the weekend, Lord Taverne pledged to lobby the Home Office over its “heavy-handed” and “unconscionable use” of 322 (5) — a section of Britain’s Immigration Rules which allows the Home Office to deny the indefinite leave to remain based on character, or “national security” threat. A number of MPs, including the Labour party’s Steven Reed, Jess Phillips and Alison McGovern, have also taken up the treatment of the professionals.

Facing refusals

With increasing frequency, highly skilled workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other non-EU countries, who came to Britain on a Tier-1 highly skilled visa (a route now closed) have had their applications for an indefinite leave to remain in the country refused, based on the fact they had made tax rectifications in the past. This was despite those rectifications being made in line with the Tax Department (HMRC)’s requirements, and therefore treated as resolved. Faced with refusals, and limited options for appeal, many have been left in very difficult circumstances — unable to work, or in some cases access public services such as health care.

A Highly Skilled Migrants campaign group has been holding protests in central London on a regular basis since the start of the year, but the issue only entered the public and spotlight following concerns about the Home Office’s wrongful treatment of Commonwealth citizens who had arrived in the country before 1973, now widely referred to as the Windrush scandal.

Aditi Bhardwaj, one of the campaigners, who believes the treatment of the highly-skilled migrants has to be seen in the context of the British government’s wider drive to bring down net migration figures, pointed out that in true instances of fraud there were other sections of the law that could be used to deny entry. “If there really was deception why are they shying away from using actual grounds to deny people?,” she says.

Windrush generation

Last week in the House of Commons, Labour MP Naz Shah compared the plight of the highly-skilled migrants to that of the Windrush generation. “Can you reassure this Committee — or not, as the case may be — that paragraph 322 was not used to get rid of people to meet the net migration target, which there certainly was a culture of in the Home Office?,” she asked during a meeting of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, at which new Home Minister Sajid Javid, and Home Official Glyn Williams faced questions. Javid declined to accept the comparison, insisting that in many cases there were “clear discrepancies” between what an individual had been earning and what had been reported to the tax office. However, he accepted there were cases where “administrative” errors may have been made.

Published on May 21, 2018

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