Labour laws designed to bring highly-qualified foreign workers such as brain surgeons into the UK were used by immigrants to get jobs as shop assistants and security guards, the Coalition claimed last night.
Immigration Minister Damian Green unveiled research showing that nearly one in three immigrants in the Labour Government's 'tier one' category for top-level applicants last year ended up doing ordinary unskilled jobs.
Tier one immigrants are categorised as doctors, scientists and entrepreneurs so skilled they could enter the UK without a job offer, said Mr Green
'These are meant to be absolutely the brightest and the best,' he said in a BBC interview.
But the anomalies had been revealed after a sample was analysed. 'We have discovered that of the visas we issued last year 29 per cent are doing unskilled jobs,' he said. '
They're shop assistants, security guards, supermarket cashiers – all absolutely essential jobs we need for our economy.
'But at a time when we have a couple of million unemployed people in this country and we have 300,000 unemployed graduates, it seems to me pretty perverse if we say we've got to keep bringing in unlimited people because we think they are very highly skilled.'
The full research, based on a sample of 1,184 tier one immigrants out of more than 18,000 given visas in 2009 is to be published this week by the UK Border Agency. It was the first detailed look at how Labour's policies had operated, Mr Green added.
However, the revelations come amid concerns that the Coalition's interim cap on non-EU immmigration, introduced in July, is hurting British businesses and scientific research capability.
Yesterday, Chris Mawtus, chief operating officer of oil service company Expro which employs 1,000 people in the UK, warned: 'We may have to start thinking of relocating some of our operations overseas.'
Former Tory Minister Lord Ryder, chairman of the Institute of Cancer Research, warned a House of Lords debate last week that the cap jeopardised its work and ability to 'bring in the right people at the right time'.
Mr Green insisted yesterday that the Government was being flexible and responding to concerns over the cap. He told The Mail on Sunday: 'It's a new system and there will be difficulties along the way but serious cases can be resolved.'
The current cap level would be reviewed and set at a permanent level next April after consultations, Mr Green added. But he stressed that the country could not go on with Labour's old 'unlimited immigration policy'.
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