At the start of April the coalition government introduced an immigration cap that makes it incredibly difficult for academics from outside the EU to secure the right to work in Britain. Now the government is recommending new immigration restrictions.

Under proposals announced a fortnight ago, migrants coming to the UK to work on temporary work visas will no longer be able to apply for settlement. “We want the brightest and best workers to come to the UK,” says the Immigration Minister Damian Green, ‘make a strong contribution to our economy while they are here, and then return home.’ Indeed, according to the proposed changes, most Tier 2 migrants – those holding skilled employment – will be able “to stay for a maximum of five years with the expectation that they and any dependants will leave at the end of that time.”

Of course ‘certain categories of Tier 2 migrant, for example those earning over £150,000 or occupations of a specific economic or social value to the UK’ –in other words, bankers, lawyers and Tory party donors – will retain an automatic route to settlement, but it looks likely that academics and higher education professionals will once again be left out in the cold. In effect, this policy makes it unlikely that permanent jobs (with the exception of the very highly paid or those deemed ‘exceptional’) will be offered to applicants from outside the EU. Without the right to apply for settlement, under these rules academics from the United States, India, China or Australia will think twice before applying for a job in Britain.

This will have dire consequences for universities. But the ramifications of this policy are not only restricted to higher education. It affects us all. To this government, people are economic units to be moved around the global checkerboard. They do not have children, fall in love, or buy houses; they do not teach, nurse, serve, write, or create, thereby enriching this country’s community and economy in ways that are complex, important and real.

This proposal should worry everyone who has a relative, a friend, or a co-worker who has come to this country and made a life here. Go to the website and fill out the public consultation survey now.

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