Immigration minister Liam Byrne under pressure over backfiring migrant plans

Pressure is mounting on immigration minister Liam Byrne after he insisted controversial changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) were “not retrospective”.

Campaigners have called for Byrne to reveal the number of migrants forced out of the country since the stricter regime was introduced in November 2006. In response to a written question in Parliament on how many people would be affected by the law, Byrne refused to give a number – or even accept that the changes were retrospective.

Last year’s changes to the HSMP meant that migrants initially promised they could renew their visas by proving ‘economic activity’ suddenly had to prove they had reached income thresholds instead.

The government claims this law is not retrospective because migrants would only be asked to leave when applying for extensions.

But campaigners pointed to a statement by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights that said the changes were retrospective.

“We are not persuaded by the government’s argument that the changes it has made to the HSMP do not have a degree of retrospective effect,” said the committee.

Amit Kapadia, director of campaign group HSMP Forum, said people who had given up everything for the promise of continuous work in the UK were receiving letters telling them to go home.

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