The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has warned that changes to the immigration rules may force closures in the UK's £3b ethnic restaurant sector.
Although a challenging reduction in itself, the BHA is alarmed that a planned tightening of entry requirements under Tier 2 of the points based system to graduate-level education or above contained in the policy document, will effectively bar chefs from outside the EU entering the UK for work.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: "This is potentially disastrous for those restaurant businesses offering quality specialised ethnic dishes of Asian and Oriental origin. Some may have to close, with the loss of UK residents' jobs.
"In the 12 months to this June, 2,412 Certificates of Sponsorship were issued for chefs, essentially for specialised Asian and Oriental chefs whose lifetime skills cannot be replicated in the EEA workforce. These chefs have been accepted as meeting the existing NVQ3 level under the points based system, but would not be regarded as having graduate status," said Ibrahim.
Ranjit Mathrani, chairman of Masala World, said: "The new policy, if not modified, will result in the destruction of our business. A sophisticated taste palate attuned to the flavours, textures, raw materials, smells, and flavourings of the particular cuisine can only be acquired after many years intense familiarity with the particular cuisine, generally starting from a very early age.
"A formal graduate level educational qualification is manifestly a misguided and irrelevant criterion for this. Very few top restaurant British chefs would meet this criterion."
With more than 10,000 ethnic restaurants operating within the UK, the BHA claims that at present for each specialised chef that comes to the UK 11 more jobs are created.
By Chris Druce
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