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News ->Maria Fernandes Supports Ethnic Restaurants Facing New Immigration Changes

Maria Fernandes Supports Ethnic Restaurants on Immigration
(2 April 2008)

Maria Fernandes VazMaria Fernandes, Principal, Fernandes Vaz Solicitors and Chair of the Ethnic Minority Citizens Forum joined over 350 Indian, Bangladeshi and Chinese restaurateurs at a public meeting with Liam Byrne MP, Minister for Immigration, to express a number of concerns about changes to the rules on work permits for Chefs. There are about 8,000 curry restaurants contributing £3.2 billion to the British economy every year. The new immigration laws from 29th February 2008 have created a shortfall in kitchen staff which is already severely affecting restaurants across the country.

The view that was forcefully expressed by several attendees was that a requirement for Chefs to speak English, as well as university students, is totally unnecessary and indicates a lack of understanding. There were also concerns that Immigration officers were routinely raiding restaurants throughout the country during peak hours, causing chaos within restaurants, and by these actions were criminalising employers.

Maria Fernandes, who is also a member of the Law Society Committee on Immigration and its former Chair stated, “Chefs are the lifeblood of the restaurants. There has been a sea change in the manner in which the work permit system is being operated and if this continues with the introduction of the new points based system, restaurants on high streets will simply disappear. This will spell the end of UK as the recognised capital for high quality multicultural cuisine.”

Maria Fernandes accompanied the Minister for Immigration on a recent trade delegation to India and, on 30th January 2008, also chaired a public meeting which the Minister spoke at on the impact of proposed policy changes to visitors’ visas. The delegation of community leaders, dignitaries and high profile guests that joined Liam Byrne went with the purpose of objectively assessing and reporting the implications of the UK’s new immigration regulations for the communities involved to the minister. With strong links to both the UK and India, all of the delegation members were able to offer an impartial assessment, by meeting with communities in Delhi that will be affected by the rule changes.


To raise awareness on impact of new immigration law to the Bangladeshi restaurant business in Scotland, the Bangladesh Samity (Association) Edinburgh held a demonstration at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, 13 March 2008.

"The staff shortages restrict the ability of many restaurants to keep open during day time hours. Some owners are planning to serve pre-cooked frozen curry rather than preparing fresh . Many restaurateurs are thinking of removing items from the menu due to scarcity of kitchen staff with appropriate ethnic culinary skills. All these coping methods will have negative consequences on the curry industry in the near future" said Noonu Miah, Chair of the Bangladesh Samity.

"We, from Bangladesh Samity (Association) Edinburgh represent thousands of Bangladeshi families living across Scotland with most of them maintaining their livelihoods by working in the hundreds of curry kitchens." said Foysol Choudhury MBE, General Secretary of the Samity "with due respect to the government's new immigration policy, which has been introduced in the national interest, we would like to request that the Scottish Government in collaboration with the Home Office finds an initiative that will furnish us with the opportunity to fill our kitchen vacancies with appropriate staff and save the industry."

New immigration law requires immigrants to have academic qualifications to work in restaurants under the skilled migrant' workers schemes where working experience and ethnic knowledge is not taken into consideration.

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