Controlled migration iskey to filling skills gap

Managed migration is the key to meeting skills shortages and developing an
effective asylum system in the UK, Home Secretary David Blunkett told a
conference last week.

The Government launches its Highly Skilled Migrant programme on 28 January,
which will increase the number of well-qualified overseas staff permitted to
work in the UK.

Blunkett said: "We have to have managed migration and inward migration
policies to make sure those seeking work here or escaping persecution are
manageable within the social cohesion of this country."

He added: "Offering alternative routes [to claiming political asylum]
seems to me a prerequisite to getting the rest of the programme right."

Other economic migration initiatives include changing work permit procedures
to make their extension easier, and increasing the period of validity of the
permits from four to five years.

A new scheme will allow seasonal and less skilled workers to secure permits,
and overseas graduates will now be able to apply for a work permit directly
following their studies.

"Our approach to these issues is holistic. We are developing sensible
and controlled routes for economic migration and ensuring our asylum system is
fair, but robust and credible," said Blunkett.

Last year the Government doubled the number of work permits issued to

"Recent migration to the UK reflects the strength of the economy and
other attractions of the UK – strong employment performance, a buoyant economy,
the English language and the democratic values we uphold," said Blunkett.

"But we should also recognise – a point too often lost in the debate –
that the UK is also an exporter of people. Total outflows from the UK reached
nearly 300,000 in 2000."

Aware of the potential controversy surrounding the Government’s plans,
however, Blunkett told delegates that new work schemes would not threaten job
opportunities for British people and skills development would continue.

By Mike Broad

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