A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday May 25 2018.
The National Health Service is already chronically understaffed – even before Brexit comes into operation. In many sectors of the British economy there are labour shortages. Net migration to the UK fell by 106,000 to 230,000 in the year following the EU referendum. The number of EU citizens leaving the UK has increased – up 28,000 to 123,000. Professor Jonathan Portes, a former chief economist for the Cabinet Office and senior fellow of the group UK in a Changing Europe, said: “Whatever your views on the impact of immigration, it cannot be good news that the UK is a less attractive place to live and work, and that we will be poorer as a result.”
The NFU (National Farmers’ Union) monthly labour survey showed a 29 per cent shortfall in seasonal workers for horticulture businesses in September 2017. Low unemployment rates and the seasonal nature of farm work makes it difficult to attract domestic pickers, which means the UK farming industry is heavily dependent on pickers from the EU. The UK has become less attractive to workers from Romania and Bulgaria because of the fall in the value of sterling against the euro since Britain voted to leave the EU. Fruit and vegetables are being left to rot on British farms. A soft fruit farmer in Scotland who grows 350 tons of blueberries had to leave between 50 to 100 tons to waste at a cost of £500,000 because of a labour shortage. A Kent soft fruit farmer couldn’t find enough labour to pick 100 tons of raspberries, out of a total of 2,000 tons, and lost £700,000. Farmers were reluctant to speak publicly about this for fear that supermarket groups would think they were not running their businesses effectively.
It is not just manual labour that is in short supply because of government policy. Research by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) showed 71% of businesses in the services sector are finding it difficult to hire the right workers – the highest figure ever recorded. BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: “Labour and skills shortages are set to be the biggest potential drag anchor on business in 2018, since ultimately it is people that make businesses work.”
Many skilled people and entrepreneurs are being threatened with deportation. The Home Office sets out in its Immigration Rules general grounds for the refusal of entry clearance, leave to enter or variation of leave to enter or remain in the UK. Paragraph 322(5) of the Immigration Act was designed to tackle criminals and terrorists. The wording is very loose and discretionary and offers everything to the Home Office yet nothing to the applicant. It seems that the Home Office is abusing the discretion which allows them to refuse an applicant by inferring that their “character and conduct” make them undesirable to be allowed to live in the UK. Officials are abusing powers granted to them under section 322(5) by wrongly applying it to those not accused of any crime. HMRC (Revenue) takes a fairly relaxed view about errors in notifying financial details for taxation purposes. The Home Office uses such errors as grounds for deportation. Home Office officials themselves introduce errors where there were none and the innocent applicant is punished.
The impending deportation of Saleem Dadabhoy would directly lead to the loss of 20 jobs, all held by British citizens, and the closure of a British company worth £1.5m. What is his crime? The Home Office says that discrepancies in the financial documents he provided show that he has fraudulently provided false evidence. Dadabhoy’s lawyer says the discrepancy is the result of Home Office incompetence. Officials made two basic accounting errors, comparing gross income to net income, and comparing a tax return from an April to April tax year to a return from a December to December accounting year.
There is no real guidance that the public can examine about how the rules should be applied by Home Office staff. What level of tax discrepancy can amount to a threat to national security? Immigration barrister Paul Turner writes: “there are stories in the press of doctors in hospitals where there are shortages of doctors being deported probably as a result of a tax error”. Turner says: “I have seen Freedom of Information Requests where the government has refused to answer how many people have been granted under 322 (5), remember it is discretionary, and how many refused.” Turner says a doctor could be saving lives in the UK one day and deported the next on the basis of someone’s else’s error of over five years ago.
Sidarth Vijay is a specialist computer programmer, a profession on the government’s list of shortage occupations. He arrived in the UK in 2011 and has never earned less than £50,000 a year. He has been employed full-time by companies including Toshiba while running his own IT consultancy company.
In 2014, Sidarth Vijay was sent a 2012-13 tax calculation by HMRC. He spotted an accounting error which meant he owed £4,000. He contacted HMRC and paid the shortfall. Despite his amendment being made in time, he has been refused indefinite leave to remain (ILR) by the Home Office under paragraph 322(5) of immigration law. He is nearly destitute after paying £15,000 in legal costs and Home Office fees.
His Home Office casework notes show he was found to be “credible” and that his refusal in February 2018 under 322(5) was entirely triggered by figures obtained from the SA02 tax documents submitted by the applicant. This is odd because he did not submit SA02 documents because they are only issued when a tax amendment has been made late, which his was not. He has a letter from HMRC which says: ““I can confirm, as discussed today, there has been no out-of-time adjustment to any of your previous years liabilities and therefore no issue of a SA02 at any point.”
He has a letter from the Home Office dated August 2017 which refers August 2017, which refers to an interview they state he attended and again refers him giving them an SA02 form. “I never attended an interview with the Home Office,” he said.
What is the sense of deporting people when the UK needs workers?