A deal between the European Union and India could allow 50,000 new IT workers from the subcontinent to take up employment in Europe each year, it has been claimed.
Lobby group MigrationWatch says it has obtained documents leaked by the European Commission which suggest up to 20,000 of this figure are intended for the UK.
This compares to just 7,000 and 3,000 work permits allocated to France and Germany respectively, MigrationWatch claims, the UK IT industry’s larger size.
"This looks suspiciously like a side-door to Britain for 15,000 to 20,000 Indian IT workers every year," said MigrationWatch chairman Sir Andrew Green, in a statement. "It is even more astonishing coming at a time when British IT workers are finding it increasingly difficult to find employment and there is a 17% unemployment rate among computer science graduates."
The group claims that an agreement may be finalised as early as next week.
In recent months, the Indian IT industry has expressed concerns that a proposed cap on immigration to the UK from outside the EU could impair its global competitiveness.
During a speech at Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference earlier in late October prime minister David Cameron suggested that any limit would not prevent businesses sourcing talent from overseas. "Let me give you this assurance," he said. "As we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world."
Last week, the prime minister also indicated that intra-company transfers, whereby multinational organisations move employees across borders, would be excluded from any immigration cap. "Intra-company transfers shouldn’t be included in what we are looking at," he said during prime minister’s questions.
In response to MigrationWatch’s claim, John Clancy, a spokesperson for the European Trade Commission, commented: "It is true that the EU and India are currently in discussions about the temporary movement of professionals delivering a service. Such provisions, known as Mode 4, are an integral part of every Free Trade Agreement the EU negotiates and they are not just important for our trading partners but just as much for European businesses: Any commitment the EU makes, tends to be largely reciprocal and would hence benefit EU investors and service suppliers operating in India, simply because it would enable them to transfer key personnel into their establishments abroad."