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EDITIONS
Monday, 24 June, 2002, 05:09 GMT 06:09 UK
Skilled workers flock to UK
Men discussing work over a computer screen
Workers are brought in to fill skills gaps in areas like IT
More than 300 skilled immigrants have been given approval to work in the UK in the past five months, the Home Office has revealed.

Their applications were dealt with under a new fast-track work permit system for highly-skilled people.

The government believes the skills of the 338 professionals, including doctors, scientists and computer experts, will help boost Britain's economy.

The figures were released as the House of Lords was set to consider the controversial Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill.


Properly managed migration is a key part of our overall immigration policy

Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes
The Bill seeks to deter illegal immigration and people smuggling, while making it easier for those with useful skills to come to the UK.

The release of figures also follow the EU summit at the weekend, in which member states agreed on measures to curb illegal immigration, but stopped short of imposing economic sanctions on poor countries which do not co-operate with their campaign.

Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes said on Monday that migrants contributed "a great deal to our society" and insisted the government was keen to attract people who could help the economy grow.

Making it easier for people to come to Britain legally would help cut abuse of the asylum system, as well as helping UK employers find the workers they need, she added.

Abuse claims

"Properly managed migration is a key part of our overall immigration policy," she said.

Under the highly-skilled migrants programme, which began in January, people can apply for work permits without having to be sponsored by an employer.

Applicants are assessed on a points system, based on their qualifications, experience and earning ability.

If they are approved, they can look for work with any employer.

A total of 953 people had applied for permits under the scheme by mid-June.

British computer specialists claimed abuses of the longer established work permit system meant they were losing jobs to workers from India.

They said some UK firms were using the system to bring in people for short periods to save money and undercut UK contractors.

Seasonal demands

The government intended to build on the highly skilled-migrant programme's success by expanding its to include low-skilled workers, such as fruit-pickers, needed by British businesses for seasonal jobs.

"The government is working to open up managed migration routes right across the skills range," she said.

"We have overhauled the work permit system, doubled the number of work permits issued and are consulting on bringing in more short-term foreign workers to meet recruitment difficulties in industries with seasonal labour demands."

The release of the work permit figures coincides with the publication of research which indicates Britain has done more than almost any other country to attract highly-skilled immigrants.

The migration research unit at University College London studied 27 initiatives to attract highly-skilled workers to 10 different countries.

It found the UK had moved "faster and further" than most other states and was processing work permits more quickly than any of the other countries.


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23 Jun 02 | UK Politics
14 Feb 02 | Business
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