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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 16:16 GMT
Chef shortage sparks curry crisis
Indian restaurants are struggling to fill vacancies
Curry restaurants are facing an "unprecedented crisis" due to tough new immigration laws, First Minister Alex Salmond has been told.

Enam Ali, the founder of the British Curry Awards, said Indian restaurants were being forced to take on unskilled workers from the UK or EU.

He said they should be able to bring in trained chefs from the sub-continent.

Mr Ali was speaking in Edinburgh where the Britannia Spice won a British Curry Award for the third year running.

Mr Salmond and Edinburgh's Lord Provost George Grubb were principal guests at the award ceremony.

We fully appreciate that barriers to mass immigration from non-EU countries have to be erected somewhere
Enam Ali

Mr Ali, who presented a special award to restaurant owner Dr Wali Uddin, said: "We are facing an unprecedented crisis that, if not resolved, could decimate our industry.

"Each year, our sector has to recruit several thousand new staff to work in our kitchens.

"Where once we were able to turn to the sub-continent to find talented chefs brought up with the spices and cooking methods that make a great curry, we now have to try to fill all the vacancies from within the EU countries."

Mr Ali added that customers expected "consistent quality" and the "full cultural experience".

Working visas

He said that the immigration laws were causing restaurants to miss out on huge opportunities for expansion.

Mr Ali called on the first minister and his colleagues in the parliament to do whatever they could to help solve the crisis.

He said: "We fully appreciate that barriers to mass immigration from non-EU countries have to be erected somewhere.

"The points-based system and the requirement for skilled workers to pass an English language test before being considered for working visas are, in most cases, perfectly sensible.

"However, unless we can persuade the powers-that-be to give us some sort of special dispensation, the future for Britain's curry restaurants is bleak indeed."

Reserved matter

Immigration is a matter reserved to Westminster.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Our objective is to manage migration in the national interest, striking the right balance between safeguarding the interests of the UK resident work force and enabling UK employers to recruit or transfer skilled people from abroad in order to help them compete effectively in an international market.

"In April we announced our new Points-Based System for managing migration, which will simplify the rules, ensuring that that those with the right skills to benefit Britain can come here to contribute.

"Ensuring that the right people come here is fundamental to managing the impact that migrants have on communities in the UK."

The first minister said the Home Office had assured him that the new points system would address concerns about the need to recruit specialist staff.

He said he would be "making strong representations" to the Home Office to make sure it delivered on its promise.

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