Curry crisis caused by immigration policy hits Cheltenham
RESTAURANT owners in Cheltenham have called on the Government to loosen its immigration policy in what is being described as a "curry crisis" in the town.
An inability to employ workers from India and other parts of Asia means the quality of food and customer service is being put in jeopardy at town curry houses.
Some owners are having to work seven days a week and are restricting opening hours as a result of the problem.
Mannan Abdul, chief executive of the Brasserie Group which owns seven restaurants in the area, including Cheltenham's Indian Brasserie, called for Whitehall to relax its immigration policy for skilled workers.
"It's very difficult to find qualified staff in this country and, when you do, demand for them is so high," he said.
"In this current economic situation and with the restrictions in the immigration industry we have no help in any way."
Mr Abdul added that many places were now having to rely on unqualified waiters or second or third chefs that, due to lack of choice, had been promoted to head chefs.
Alawor Siddique, owner of Kings Tandoori and Balti in Charlton Kings, echoed the concerns.
He said the restaurant was having to reduce its opening hours as a direct result of the Government's policy.
Mr Siddique said: "Over the last year we have been facing problems with staff. We used to get phone calls from all over the country enquiring about jobs.
"Now staff are not well trained to do the job, but we don't have any choice. When we find a skilled worker, they do not have permission to work.
"Business has gone down because service is not as good and food is not served at the standard it should be."
Enam Ali, chairman of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs, called for change.
"The UK's immigration policy, which applies a wholly unreasonable set of criteria in relation to chefs and skilled workers from outside the EU, continues to put the industry as a whole at crisis," he said.
"No applications for curry and tandoori chef positions are coming through local Jobcentre Plus offices due to the intensity of training and skills sets required.
"Curry chef shortages are leading to an increasing number of closures among Indian restaurants right across Britain.
"And regions such as Gloucestershire are even worse hit, as there is a shortage of Asian locals and residents available to apply for the jobs."
Under the Government's points-based system, most migrants must pass a points assessment before they can get permission to work in the UK.
Businesses that want to take on staff from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland need to sponsor them, apart from highly-skilled workers, such as scientists and entrepreneurs.