Asian restaurants warn of curry crisis over immigration plans

UK's Asian restaurants warn over Tory immigration pledge

Conservative plans to double the charge on employing non-EU staff could prove dire for the UK's curry houses, trade bodies have warned.

The government has said the Immigration Skills Charge levied on businesses hiring migrant workers will rise to £2,000 a year by the end of the next parliament if the Conservatives win the general election on 8 June.

Yawar Khan, chairman of the Asian Catering Federation (ACF) – which represents 20,000 restaurant and takeaway owners - called the plans ‘hugely disappointing’.

The ACF backed the Remain campaign in the EU referendum, but said many of its members voted for Brexit in the hope that greater controls over EU immigration would allow the Government to relax tight restrictions on non-EU staff.

Curry houses have been hit hard by an ongoing shortage of skilled UK chefs, but cannot employ staff from outside the EU unless they earn over £30,000.

"Curry restaurants and takeaways, already faced with rising food and energy costs, plus staff shortages, are closing down at a rate of two a week,” said Khan.

"The policy to double the immigration charge can only make matters much worse.”

Pasha Khandaker, president of the Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA), told BigHospitality the plans would have a 'direct' impact on the UK's curry industry.

"[The government] has made it official that we will never be able to employ someone from our country because most of the restaurants and takeaways will not be able to afford the £2,000 skills charge," he said.

"If they do not change their mind on immigration policy, I am afraid within ten years this industry will disappear and more than 100,000 people will be unemployed."

The Conservatives plan to use the funds raised through the levy to invest in training for UK workers. 

“Skilled immigration should not be a way for government or business to avoid their obligations to improve the skills of the British workforce,” the party's manifesto states.

There is currently no indication that the charge will apply to EU workers once the UK leaves the bloc.

Visa plan

If elected, the Conservatives also plan to ask the Independent Migration Advisory Committee to recommend setting aside ‘significant’ numbers of visas for workers in ‘strategically-important’ sectors.

Labour has said it will introduce a new immigration system based on ‘a mix of visas and work permits’ and has pledged to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.

The Liberal Democrats have promised a second referendum on the final decision to withdraw from the EU, as well as securing the rights of EU citizens.

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