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Indian diplomat warns UK over skilled worker numbers

LONDON May 25: The number of skilled Indian migrants willing to work in the UK could suffer a sharp decline if immigration officials continue to reject migrants’ applications over minor issues such as past tax adjustments, a senior Indian diplomat has warned.
Dinesh Patnaik, India’s deputy high commissioner in London, said his mission had been approached by “hundreds” of skilled Indian migrants facing problems with their UK visas.
Mr Patnaik pointed out that a previous issue — the branding of thousands of overseas students as cheats because of issues with an English language test — had contributed to a huge fall-off in the number of Indian students studying in the UK.
There were 40,000 Indian students studying at UK higher education institutions in the 2010-11 academic year, a figure that fell to 16,550 for 2016-17. Indians accounted for 27,700 skilled migrant visas in 2017, according to the Oxford Migration Observatory.
“If the UK really wants the best and brightest, it should not allow to happen what happened with the student issue,” Mr Patnaik said. 
“We are afraid that this would happen with the highly skilled migrants.”
Dinesh Patnaik said India's mission in London had been approached by 'hundreds' of skilled Indian migrants facing problems with their UK visas.
The harassment of skilled migrants and entrepreneurs is one of a series of issues around the Home Office’s treatment of overseas immigrants to have emerged in the wake of the Windrush Generation scandal over the treatment of Commonwealth migrants.
The skilled migrants have mostly been rejected for visas under a section of the immigration rules intended to deal with national security threats.
Mr Patnaik said the Home Office’s behaviour was “strange” given the migrants’ role. “They’re contributing far more to the UK economy than they’re getting out of it,” Mr Patnaik said.
Migrants were complaining to the High Commission that they were being refused visas over issues such as a single traffic offence or a mistake on a tax form that had led to an underpayment of £50 or £100 that was later put right, Mr Patnaik said.
Stephen Timms, the Labour MP for East Ham, said that at a time when the UK was leaving the EU it wanted stronger ties with other countries, including fast-growing Commonwealth members.
“At the moment, the way we’re handling these cases is very seriously damaging them,” he said.
The Home Office said: “Tier 1 remains an important way to attract leading talent and entrepreneurs to the UK. There are also a variety of other routes available to Indian nationals to come to the UK to work and study.”