On a recent trip to India, Prime Minister David Cameron reassured Indian authorities that the UK is open to business and Britain ‘still welcomes the best and brightest'.
Yet, since in power, the Home Office has been doing the exact opposite by increasing visa restrictions for non-Europeans, such as removing the post-study visa.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper cheerfully announced last week that net migration had a dropped by over 30% and confirmed his department’s commitment to making this decrease sustainable.
Now Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has announced plans to restrict access to public services for EU citizens. At the same time, certain areas of the press are whipping up fear that there will soon be a new influx of immigrants as restrictions are lifted for Romanians and Bulgarians entering the UK.
But how much of this scaremongering is justified? Statistics show that migrants from this part of eastern Europe are less likely to come to the UK than their Polish counterparts, are less likely to benefit from the welfare system than UK nationals and are not a burden but a net contributor to the welfare system.
By continuing with its plan to cut net migration from 250,000 to tens of thousands, the government risks damaging the UK economy. Immigration concerns are not justified by data and statistics.
Only 6.4% of all immigrants claim working age benefits, and migrants’ net contribution to the UK economy is estimated to be positive.
The restrictions have resulted in an increase of immigrants' recourse to illegal routes (for example so-called bogus students), and it pushes the more-skilled ones to simply turn their back on the UK and go for more welcoming countries - like the US or Canada.
The government is championing ‘Silicon Roundabout,’ London’s answer to Silicon Valley. But the thriving East London's technology hub might be short lived if the barriers to recruitment are kept high. Strict immigration rules prevent innovative start-ups from recruiting foreign talents that can fill the very real shortage of IT and computer skilled workers.
Home secretary Theresa May also recently proposed a removal of the visa-free permission to Brazilians to come to the UK. Such a restriction is likely to damage the UK’s ability to do business with one of the world’s fastest growing economies.Many European citizens can speak two languages - what about young Britons? Reducing British youth exposure to international competition and globalisation is not preparing them to be leaders of tomorrow.
It is likely to make even more young unemployed Britons rely on State protection. They need to be pushed to grow skills that meet today’s international job market reality as well as to prepare for future growth. They need to be inspired, not protected.
Bipolar immigration policies are putting the UK at risk of losing its appeal to skilled foreign workers, missing out on opportunities to trade with the world’s fastest growing economies, and reducing its status as a leading nation.