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Fast track Chefs Immigration

The Government was today urged to give highly skilled chefs the same immigration fast-track as top footballers.

Highly experienced chefs from countries including India, China and Japan are queuing up to come to earn good wages in the UK � and help fill a massive shortage of qualified chefs.

But while foreign football stars have benefited from fast-tracked applications to work here, the Home Office consistently refuses to speed up recruitment of much-needed chefs, People 1st and the British Hospitality Association (BHA) warned.

Brian Wisdom, chief executive of People 1st, said: �The Government has known for some time that employers here are struggling to find highly skilled chefs.

�There is a certain irony in the fact that, say, a sushi chef with 12 years training � who we really need in this country � gets denied entry yet footballers from the same part of the world with less years training behind them take priority.�

BHA chief executive Bob Cotton added: �There is a strong market for chefs who are based in the EU and move from place to place.

However, the high-quality Asian restaurants can't find enough chefs locally and need to look abroad.

�With our food tastes evolving, there is an urgent need for great chefs and this will become even more of an issue with the influx of millions of tourists heading to London in advance of the Olympic Games.�

The two organisations today sent a letter to the prime minister urging him to act now to allow the hospitality sector to urgently fill the skills gap.

The limit on the number of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants allowed to work in the UK will have a damaging effect on hospitality employers, according to a leading hotel recruiter.

George Chalmers, manager of, Scotland's largest recruiter of staff from Eastern Europe, said Home Secretary John Reid was wrong to impose restrictions on the two countries when they join the EU in January 2007.

The ban will leave businesses struggling to fill vacancies, Chalmers said, given the large and increasing number of vacancies in the hospitality and construction sectors.

"It's not a question of cheap labour; it is a question of filling a skills gap," Chalmers told the Scotsman. "We had really been gearing up for Bulgaria and Romania, but now Reid has really caused problems for me and my clients."

Chalmers estimated that he had placed about 3,000 Eastern Europeans in UK jobs since the 10 former communist countries joined the EU in 2004

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