by LAUREN CODLING
OPPOSITION leader Jeremy Corbyn has said a Labour government would not set “arbitrary targets” on migration, adding that they would separate student numbers from immigration figures.
In an exclusive interview with Eastern Eye last week, Corbyn also said it was an “economical imperative” that the system to bring highly skilled individuals from India to the UK for employment be re-evaluated.
“We would look at migration on the basis of the economy needs of the country. We would not set arbitrary targets as the Conservative government has, which they haven’t managed to [achieve] anyway,” Corbyn said.
The Labour leader visited the Mahavir Foundation Jain Temple in Harrow, north London, last Thursday (26) as he campaigned with local candidates ahead of the local elections due to take place on Thursday (3).
As well as discussing matters surrounding the Jain community and how important it was for their faith to be documented in the upcoming 2021 census (“all faiths [should be] recognised in the census, so we understand that we are a truly multi-faith society”), Corbyn also touched upon issues concerning immigration and visas.
Acknowledging the difficulties within the visa system for skilled south Asians, particularly from India, who were hoping to work in the UK, Corbyn said the system needed to be made easier for them.
Last week, it was revealed that 100 Indian doctors could not take up roles offered to them by the NHS due to the Home Office denying them visas as the cap for Tier 2 visas had been reached.
“Many [UK] companies are telling me that they have… highly skilled people they want to bring in from India and they wait months and months, have lots of arguments with the Home Office, and they are unable to get [these individuals] in the country,” Corbyn said. “There is an economical imperative that this system be simplified and speeded up.”
On the Windrush scandal, Corbyn said he had great empathy for the people affected and reiterated his claims that the issue had previously been raised in parliament but was ignored by the then-home secretary Theresa May.
The migrants were brought to the UK from the West Indies on the ship Empire Windrush between 1948 and the early 1970s, helping to rebuild Britain after the Second World War.
Under the 1971 Immigration Act, the Commonwealth citizens were given indefinite leave to remain in the country. But the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming it, meaning it is difficult for them to now prove they are in Britain legally.
The government has faced a backlash as people who had been threatened with deportation came forward. After offering compensation to those affected last week, home secretary Amber Rudd resigned from her role last Sunday evening (29).
Communities minister Sajid Javid has since been named Britain’s new home secretary.
“Now we have the government in complete disarray, having to apologise to the entire community and offer compensation,” Corbyn said.
He added that the compensation must cover all the costs of the individual’s losses, such as for those who were unable to continue in employment due to their status in the country.
“They deserve compensation as well. It will cost the government quite a lot of money solely because of the decision of the then home secretary Theresa May and her successor,” he said.
Corbyn, who has led the Labour party since 2015, said he wants BAME communities to realise that Labour “speaks for everybody”.
“We will not tolerate divisions in our society and we will not tolerate racism in any form whatsoever,” he said. “We have to do better in our schools, in our education, with the young people from ethnic minority communities.”
An analysis of voting patterns in the 2017 general election by thinktank British Future found ethnic minority votes cost the Tory party a majority of seats, with only 19 per cent of BAME voters endorsing the Conservatives last June.
An estimated 65 per cent of ethnic minority voters opted for Labour.
Asked about his relationship with India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, Corbyn said they both had a “great understanding” of issues surrounding student visas and working visas.
He acknowledged the “huge” economic trade between the two nations, noting the deals surrounding the automotive and steel industry.
“There is always going to be a close relationship between India and Britain,” he said.