UK cap on migrants to face legal challenge

The annual cap is to be in place permanently from April 2011. Until then, the government has placed the limit at 24,100 migrants from outside the EU who could be allowed to take up jobs in Britain.

Several leading companies, including GE, and ministers in the David Cameron government have opposed the annual limit on the ground, saying that it is already hurting British economic recovery since companies are unable to find the right people with the right skills within the EU. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is preparing a case against the limit on the ground that the restrictive measure did not get parliamentary approval.

Habib Rahman, JCWI chief executive, told The Guardian that the group was very concerned about the damage the interim cap already appeared to be doing to British business: He said: "It is harsh and disproportionate. We consider caps are a further attempt by the government to blame part of the financial difficulties the country finds itself in on migrants. Migrants fill the skill gap, create jobs and help rejuvenate the economy."

However, the immigration minister, Damian Green, said: "We will rigorously defend this challenge and are confident of success. The government has been clear, we will introduce our permanent annual limit on economic migrants from outside the EU from April 2011."

He added: "While we decide how the annual limit should operate it is imperative that we have interim measures in place to avoid a rush of applications from migrants before the new rules take effect." The coalition government, he said, was "fully committed" to reduce the level of net migration back down to the levels of the 1990s: tens of thousands each year, not hundreds of thousands.

Introducing a limit on migrants from outside Europe coming here to work is just one of the ways we intend to achieve this, he added.

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