Immigration minister Liam Byrne’s promise rings hollow as Home Office withdraws visas

Immigration minister Liam Byrne has been heavily criticised after foreign workers received orders to leave the UK just days after he promised to “review and reflect” on the controversial moves that cost them their visas.

Thousands of migrant employees – particularly doctors, engineers and IT professionals – are set to lose their jobs because of changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).

Campaign group HSMP Forum was confident that Byrne was reconsidering the new points system after meeting him on 26 March. But on 1 April workers received letters ordering them to leave the UK as their visas had been withdrawn.

HSMP Forum co-ordinator Amit Kapadia told Personnel Today: “It is very surprising. The minister showed lots of concern at the meeting and said he was sorry to hear about the impact of the changes on people’s lives. He said he would review the changes, and we were hopeful that he would do something.”

Several migrant employees have received the letters, Kapadia said, which told them to appeal against the decision or leave the country by an unspecified date.

Many did not have the money to appeal and were in a state of panic. “They feel threatened. Many have families, and some have children studying for their GCSEs in two months’ time,” he said.

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin said the removal orders were “absolutely shocking”.

The association’s president Ramesh Mehta added: “It is shameful for this country. These are highly skilled workers who came here and got jobs because this country needed them, and now they are being sent home.”

The new-look HSMP disregards previous UK work experience, and even much-needed professionals such as doctors do not receive priority points.

Campaigners are seeking a judicial review of a High Court decision in February that backed the new system against claims that it was discriminatory.

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