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Ethnic restaurant representatives attack new migration scheme

17 March 2006

Representatives of the UK's ethnic restaurant sector have attacked a new migration system for non-European Union (EU) workers as unfair.

Under the proposals, poorly skilled workers from outside the EU will no longer be eligible to get a job in the UK, other than on a temporary, exceptional basis.

Zahid Kasim, owner of the Café Lazeez restaurant group, said: "As a growing business we need low-skilled staff to groom to become the sous and head chefs of the future. If we can't do this it will prevent effective succession planning."

Enam Ali, head of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs, agreed the new restrictions were not practical. "If small businesses are now going to have to combine Bangladeshi kitchen staff with Polish - neither speaking English as a first language - it will be a disaster," he said.

Although the supply of low-skilled workers will be restricted as part of the new scheme, skilled workers - such as senior chefs - will qualify to work in the UK if they hold an NVQ level 3 qualification or equivalent.

However, Ali said this was inadequate because Indian restaurants had to recruit chefs from India based on their talent in the kitchen, not their qualifications or language skills.

Chinese Takeaway Association chairman Thomas Chan also questioned the fairness of the bond employers will have to stump up to prevent chefs from disappearing.

"I don't think this is fair as many businesses will have incurred additional costs by recruiting from abroad in the first place," he said.

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