Parliamentary human rights committee slams changes to Highly Skilled Migrant Programme as breach of European Convention

More high-level criticism has been heaped on the retrospective nature of the government’s controversial changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).

A Lords and Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights report yesterday warned that the changes breached the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Campaigners have long held that up to 49,000 workers could be forced out of the country by having to effectively reapply for their visas under the new, stricter rules.

The report said: “The committee concludes that the changes to the HSMP are clearly not compatible with the right to respect for home and family life under Article 8 of the ECHR and contrary to basic notions of fairness.

“It recommends that the Immigration Rules should be amended so that the changes apply only prospectively, that is to future applicants to the HSMP.”

Pressure to change the laws has mounted from a range of sources including migrant groups, shadow immigration minister Damian Green, and London mayor Ken Livingstone. The Commission for Racial Equality has also expressed concerns about the way the changes were made.

But immigration minister Liam Byrne has refused to back down on the changes, introduced in November 2006.

Amit Kapadia, director of campaign group HSMP Forum, said: “The UK government acts as a custodian of human rights the world over, however not at home.

“The unfair changes are destroying the lives of thousands of immigrants who came to the UK in good faith believing the promises which were made by the UK government, only to wake up and realise that they have been deceived.”

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