By Prasun Sonwalkar, IANS
London : As litigation continues over recent changes to immigration rules, Britain has announced plans to launch an international marketing campaign to promote the country as a 'migration destination' and to leverage the economically active Indian community here to forge links with India's growing economy.
Changes to immigration rules in November 2006 that adversely affected thousands of highly skilled migrants from India and other non-European Union countries are currently the subject of protests and judicial review petitions.
Reacting to the new plans, Amit Kapadia, coordinator of the campaign against the changes, told IANS: "The immigration minister is further trying to lure skilled migrants internationally rather than resolving burning issues like the unfair retrospective changes implemented in November 2006 on the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme holders (majority from India) who have made major investments in the UK just to be left in the lurch.
"Any new scheme launched by the Home Office should come with a statement of caution that the Home Office can anytime break all its promises made to the immigrants. So, that people can be forewarned that their lives can be ruined."
The new plans are designed to attract businesses and migrants with skills that are considered 'right' for Britain's economy.
The plans for the marketing campaign have been set out in a joint Home Office and Foreign Office document titled "Managing Global Migration: A Strategy to Build Stronger International Alliances to Manage Migration".
Releasing the document, Home Office Minister Liam Bryne said: "As one of the world's most prosperous and outward-looking nations, the UK has a leading role in managing migration. We want borders that are open to those who bring skills, talent, business and creativity that boost our economy, yet closed to those who might cause us harm or seek to enter illegally."
The strategy paper focuses on the need to leverage the knowledge and skills of Britain's Indians and Chinese of their countries of origin to connect with their growing economies. Special measures have been proposed to help build such links.
The paper states: "Migrant communities also help connect us to the global economy. They play a role in increasing the UK's trade with countries of origin and this will be increasingly important as other major new economic markets mature in China, India and Brazil in particular."
As part of a new strategy to promote the Britain-based financial sector overseas, UK Trade and Investment – a government organisation – will be expected to engage with representatives of the Indian and Chinese communities in Britain to explore ways of enhancing trade in financial, legal and business services with the two countries.
To further build links with growth markets, the paper said the government would:
* Encourage entrepreneurs and trade-related businesses to come to the UK from overseas through Tier 1 (highly skilled migrants) of the Points Based System (expected to be introduced in early 2008);
* Improve the investment climate in the UK for overseas businesses, including through improving processes and reducing the time required to bring goods to and from non-EU countries;
* Support increased access of diaspora communities to financial services, taking account of innovation; and
* Support cultural and work exchanges between the UK and non-EU countries.
According to official figures, India heads the list of top 10 countries of last residence of migrants who are not British citizens (2004 and 2005 combined). The figure for India was 91,000, while for Poland it was 66,000, China 48,000 and Pakistan 36,000.
The paper states: "As the global economy develops, we will be competing with other countries for migrants and tourists, and must therefore ensure that our immigration processes are fast, fair and friendly. We need to act internationally so that the UK remains attractive to those who can contribute to our economy".
It states that the government will also try to increase Britain's share of the global tourism and education markets by making things simpler for visitors to Britain through "trusted traveller" schemes and special visas for major events such as the Olympics.
The strategy document acknowledges that some countries do not cooperate sufficiently in taking back failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants from Britain. Byrne said that cooperation on returning illegal migrants would be a key factor in whether a country passed the "visa waiver test", which would be applied over the next 12 months.
The paper also set out plans to help Britain gain greater share in the global tourism and education market so that the perception of the country's immigration process is considered positive.