Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Sunday, 20 April 2008 16:39 UK

Restaurants in migrants protest

Chinese restaurant worker
New rules particularly affect workers in the ethnic food sector

Thousands of restaurant workers have gathered in London to protest about recent changes to immigration laws.

Groups representing 44,000 Chinese, Turkish and South Asian firms are meeting in Trafalgar Square to voice fears over new immigrant restrictions.

The Ethnic Catering Alliance estimates up to 30% of its restaurants are under threat because of new rules requiring non-EU staff to meet strict criteria.

Ministers say the system balances the interests of UK and foreign workers.

The protest comes after the launch of the new points-based system at the end of February for migrants from outside the EU, which favours highly-skilled workers.

Rice bowl petition

Under the scheme, migrants can only work in the UK if they meet criteria including good educational qualifications and the ability to speak proficient English.

Curry isn't Indian or Bangladeshi food anymore, it's British food now
Mohammed Ohid Uddi

The new immigration rules have especially affected workers in the ethnic food sector, including Indian and Chinese restaurants, many of whom lack the required points to allow them to continue working in Britain.

According to BBC News correspondent Jon Kelly, the gathering was good natured and hospitable, with plenty of noise.

Abdul Shahid, 45, who owns three restaurants in Derby, was one of the estimated 3,000 people at the protest.

He said: "We desperately need to recruit the right staff but the rules are a massive barrier.

"We make a huge contribution to the British economy and all we are asking for is fairness."

The crowd also contained people from Chester and Liverpool, who had come down for the gathering on coaches.

The Chinese Immigration Concern Committee previously asked Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to reconsider the immigration rule changes, with its members sending her a petition written on rice bowls.

The UK Border Agency, which administers the new scheme, says the points system maintains the right balance between safeguarding the interests of the UK resident work force and enabling employers to recruit skilled people from abroad.

Here are some of your comments:

What a load of rubbish. The local fish and chip shop doesn't have a problem finding staff. To suggest you need overseas workers to make a curry is ridiculous. The reason they want overseas workers is, they can make them work all the hours God sends, and pay them peanuts.
Dot smith,

My father was an immigrant waiter who worked hard to earn money to establish a chinese takeaway in the UK back in 1970's. Many latest 2nd/3rd generation chinese has already fully integrated into english society and jobs, leaving real vacancies unfilled in all present ethnic catering industries. It is unrealistic to try to fill these vacancies with Polish or european workers whom has no knowledge or understanding of these ethnic catering industries. The fact that many ethnic restaurants and takeaways are closing as a result of the new immigration rules is a definite cause for concern. We need a workable solution for a real dilemma, after all we simply want to make a living, but right now our rice bowls are indeed taken away.
Alec Lau, Oxfordshire

I work in a kebab house in Lozells birmingham. Since the new changes in immigration law many of my staff have disappeared. My business has been severely affected and my profits have declined. I have tried to take on Polish immigrants but they are unable to interact with our Pakistani Chef. The government needs to understand that there is no need for qualifications in the catering industry.
Saqib Hussain, birmingham

I think they're being a bit hasty with this protest as, with the current "credit crunch" people won't be able to afford to eat out as much anyway.
Alan Pople, Ashford, United Kingdom

All these protests are about employing cheap labour, nothing more, nothing less. If i was a restaurant owner and I could get away with employing people for little or NO money, (the poor worker accepting this as a legal way into the UK), then i would also be upset about any legislation which threatened to upset my cosy arrangements. This legislation is sorely needed to stop this disgraceful avoidance of basic human rights, as well as UK immigration procedures.
Mr L Buckley, Bradford, West Yorks, England

It's cooking for goodness sake, do people think British white people cannot learn to cook, or whip up a curry? I can make a curry better than the curry house down the road. Train the potential workers we have here before importing more immigrant workers.
David Sparks, Preston

The idea that you have to be of an ethnic origin to cook, or learn to cook, a certain type of food, is as silly as saying you have to be of european decent to cook fish and chips.
P Chang, Stockton

I fail to see how stopping more coming here will cause a problem. Didn't Gordon Brown say not so long ago "British jobs for British workers". This is the ideal time to take thousands off the dole and into work. Seems a good idea to me.
Dave Bagley, Milton keynes

If there is a shortage of trained people to work in ethnic restaurants, they should provide training, apprenticeships and decent pay and conditions so that people living in this country can work for them. It is not a persons country of origin that determines their cooking skills, but their training.
Paul, Kettering

Can curry chain stand the heat?
20 Apr 08 |  Business
Immigration points system begins
29 Feb 08 |  UK Politics

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific