A LEADING Scots immigration lawyer has rubbished Boris Johnson’s plans for a points-based immigration system (PBS) which he claimed would put “people before passports”.

Usman Aslam was speaking exclusively to The National the day after Johnson told the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London that his proposals would be introduced by January next year, although he gave no detail about how they would work.

Under freedom of movement, which will end when Britain leaves the bloc, EU citizens do not need a visa to work in the UK – but immigrants from other countries are already subject to a points based system, which Aslam said was not without its problems.

And he said we were entitled to be sceptical: “We must remember, this is the government who denied talented people (ironically from Africa) even short visitor visas to come to the UK for landmark shows and festivals.

“Therefore, the proposals by the Tories hardly inspire confidence.”

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The lawyer, from the Glasgow practice of McGlashan McKay, said there appeared to be an assertion that the new system would be “equal”, without stating how.

“To have a PBS in the first place necessarily tells us it is aimed at only those who can attain those ‘points’. We already have a PBS and that is not without its problems.

“For example, there is a cap on the number of skilled worker visas. Will there be a cap on these plans?

“There is the ever-changing shortage occupation list, which is changing again, that employers struggle to fill. There is the issue of minimum salary that can put employers and employees off.

“Judges from the highest court in the UK have criticised the immigration rules in general.

“When the Home Office introduced the PBS in 2008, it was meant to have an objective test criteria. However, over time, they started to introduce subjective test criteria such as ‘genuineness tests’, which were simply putting off entrepreneurs investing money in the UK.”

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Aslam said that many people could not meet the stringent criteria to prove evidential requirements and wondered if these would be relaxed.

However, he said the real danger of having a PBS was the arguable discrimination that could come with it.

He said: “For example, assessing someone’s age in a Tier 5 category that we currently have – what can be benefited from stopping someone, for example, over 31 contributing to the UK?

“It is also unclear how any assessment has been done, and how the needs of different areas of the UK have been addressed.”

The lawyer went on to say that our public services and economy were under threat should a new system not address our own country’s specific needs.

Aslam added: “Scotland is being ignored, which is why we need autonomy over our immigration affairs, as we have a population under pressure and we desperately require migrants to help. We are running the risk of losing EU workers, which will have an impact on the NHS, care work provisions, fishing and the farming industries.

“Let’s stop trying to compare our immigration system to others, let’s establish what actually is in the national interest and not in one party’s interest.”

Minnie Rahman, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said discrimination was built into the current system.

Brexit will mark a watershed in how we handle immigration in the UK and it’s vital that the new system is based on fairness and equality alongside an acceptance that people move, they always have and they always will,” she said.

“There has been scant detail of what the points-based system will look like in practice, but we see cases every day, like the rejection of professionals from African countries, which proves that discrimination is built into the current system. If Boris Johnson really does mean to put ‘people before passports’, he will need to recognise and eradicate the racism embedded in the immigration system.”