Businesses forced to rely on foreign workers as UK remains divided on record-high migration


In Birmingham’s famous Balti triangle, skilled chefs from Pakistan prepare curry at Al Faisals restaurant.

The manager, Qasim Khan, says without foreign workers he’d struggle to staff the restaurant as British workers don’t apply when they advertise work.

“It is very, very difficult to get people to work in the hospitality sector,” he says.

“We’re finding it very difficult. People are not applying.

“People are not interested to come into the hospitality sector, as a waiter, as a chef.”

Siddesh Barki, 23, is a part-time waiter in the restaurant.

He arrived in the UK on a student visa in January and is studying for a master’s in hospitality at Birmingham City University.

Siddesh Barki plans to remain in Britain

When the course ends next year he plans to remain in Britain.

“I’d like to convert my visa to a work visa,” he says, adding that he plans to find a sponsor company and stay for at least five years.

“I will be staying in this country, earning a good amount of money, earning a good amount of respect and learning many new things – so I’m doing it,” he says.

Birmingham curry house
Al Faisals restaurant would struggle without hiring foreign workers

At a nearby garage, they have a constant supply of work, but one of their mechanics is nearing retirement.

Naveed Sadiq, one of the managers, says they’ve been advertising locally with no luck for two years.

“Trying to hire a mechanic is like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” he says.

He explains: “Because if you’re a mechanic and you work in the UK you become self-employed. Why would you want to be employed?”

It means he’s now looking to bring someone over from Pakistan.

“We can give somebody an opportunity to get out of a life of poverty and help bring his family here,” he says.

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Naveed Sadiq has been advertising for workers for two years

‘It worries us’

Record migration numbers show the number of people entering the country via legal routes has soared, especially the number of people coming from outside the EU on work visas.

For a government that promised to get net migration down, it’s a big problem – and one that’s likely to anger many voters.

On the streets of Birmingham, shoppers were divided in their view on what ministers should do next.

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UK migration: What the numbers tell us

“It worries us,” one couple said, adding: “It’s more strain on the National Health Service.

“That’s the reason why we came out on Brexit wasn’t it, for this reason? So it needs clamping down more.”

Others see a difference between legal migration and people crossing the channel in small boats.

Birmingham resident
Birmingham resident says the ‘country needs skilled workers’

“We want as many nurses, doctors, skilled workers that we can have and pay them the right money, pay them what they deserve,” one man said, adding: “The country needs skilled workers, so legal migration I’m all in favour.”

But many feel the numbers of migrants need to come down.

“Of course, I feel for people coming from a terrible regime that they’ve come from,” one woman said. “They need some kind of help and a safe place to be.

“But we are obviously bursting at the seams here so we expect the government to step up and do something.”

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