CURRY houses in Hounslow have joined a nationwide campaign to fight against increasingly strict immigration policies.

Owners of the area's south Asian restaurants went to Trafalgar Square on Sunday to protest about the new rules.

The policy, a points system by which visa candidates are given a score, favours immigrants with a higher education.

Its opponents claim it threatens to cause labour shortages in the restaurant industry by barring workers they traditionally use from entering the country.

They also claim it will make it impossible to bring in temporary, low-skilled workers from anywhere outside the EU.

Sarab Jeetsingh, manager of Mantra Contemporary Indian Dining in Hounslow, said that although his business has not yet been hit, the law severely limits his potential for growth.

"It will be very hard to find chefs in the future," he told the Informer.

According to the Bangladesh Caterers' Association, the industry already has a shortage of 27,500 workers.

They say this demand cannot be filled domestically because too few Britons want the jobs.

"This industry is facing massive problems," said Bajloor Rashid, president of the association.

"Because of the new points system, we can't get any more workers and we can't keep the people who are already working for us."

Satvinder Buttar, of Hounslow Racial Equality Council, said that the Government needs to take a more handson role in screening visa candidates.

"The Government needs to examine more closely the employment needs of each sector of the economy instead of using this blanket policy," he added.

"We need to fill the shortage and if we can't domestically, then we must go abroad. We should allow immigrants to come to this country and contribute to the economy.

"The real long-term solution would be a domestic supply of workers, we need a domestic jobs drive."

Restaurateurs claim the Government has done little to respond to caterers'

concerns. "We offered to set up a special training programme, and asked for special consideration to keep our industry going.

"They keep saying they'll work with us, but they haven't yet," said Mr Rashid.

Shaiful Hoque, a 27-year-old employee of New Heathrow Tandoori in Hounslow, who came to the UK three years ago, claimed that it was much easier to get a visa when she first emigrated from Bangladesh.

"All I had to do was show my documents and I got my visa. It's much more difficult now," she said.

Mr Jeetsingh added: "A lot of the foreigners who would come here to work at restaurants may not be educated, but they're hard workers who are valuable to the community."

But despite the new legislation, he is glad that he came to work in the UK.

"I love being here. People want to eat your food, and experience your culture. I love serving them," he said.

Raj Katian, 25, who works at Mantra, added: "There will definitely be shortages in the future if they stop immigrant labour."