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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 22:45 GMT
New foreign recruits for UK farms
A harvester on a British farm
20,000 foreign workers already help with harvesting
An extra 5,000 foreign workers are to be allowed to work at British farms, the government has announced.

Twenty thousand immigrant workers already come to the UK to help harvest crops between May and November each year.


Migrants have an enormous amount to offer our economy and our society.

David Blunkett
Home Secretary
Now Home Secretary David Blunkett has announced the foreign farm workers will be allowed to help all year round.

The move comes on the day Chancellor Gordon Brown announced there would be more work permits for immigrants.

Mr Blunkett says it is sensible to allow people from overseas to fill potential shortages in some sectors of the economy.

IT scheme extended

His asylum and immigration measures, passed by Parliament earlier this month, are designed to strengthen safeguards against illegal immigration.

But at the same time more people are being allowed to come to the UK legally to work.

David Blunkett, Home Secretary
David Blunkett has just shaken up the immigration system
Information technology is another area which has been boosted by almost 1,000 elite overseas staff since the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme began nine months ago.

That experiment has been extended indefinitely and a new unit is being set up within Work Permits UK to help small firms recruit the staff they need.

Mr Blunkett said the world economy was now increasingly mobile.

"In this competitive world-wide environment, it is essential that we can attract the people and skills we need for our businesses to be able to compete successfully, and for our economy to flourish," said Mr Blunkett.

'Clear message'

The home secretary argued foreign workers could bring new ideas and capital to the UK, as well as helping prevent recruitment difficulties.

Mr Blunkett continued: "If we can harness the vitality, skills and energy of migrants we can stimulate productivity, economic growth and job creation.

"Our message to would-be migrants is clear. We are opening up more opportunities for you to work here legally, but if you come here illegally and abuse our asylum system we will take action."

Mr Blunkett stressed that using foreign labour was not an alternative to cultivating home-grown talent.


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