Legal profession gives guarded support to immigration minister Liam Byrne over points-based system

Legal experts have broadly defended immigration minister Liam Byrne over his new points-based work visa system – but not without caveats.

Byrne was criticised by unions and immigrant groups when he announced in Sydney last week that the tough new scheme would begin in early 2008.

Construction union UCATT and campaign body HSMP Forum warned the points system would lead to exploitation and upheaval for foreign workers.

But Ansar Ali, solicitor with law firm DWF, said: “There is a common misconception that the government’s aim is to reduce the number of immigrants. This is not the case. The system aims to attract the most talented workers into the UK, to tackle abuse and manage immigration more effectively.”

Ali said that the new system would simplify the process of applying for a work permit, making immigration easier to understand for all concerned.

But he added: “One downside is that, with applications being dealt with abroad, there could be logistical problems, for example with employers sending documentation or providing legal support for the individuals concerned.”

Ali also said there was a risk that the new system would “serve only to exacerbate illegal migration and increase exploitation of workers in [low-skilled] sectors.”

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