Edinburgh, Mar.14 : Restaurant owners in England and Scotland have expressed concern that the Gordon Brown Government's new immigration laws might irretrievably affect the country's curry industry.
Warning that the industry "will die", the owners said the tough new immigration laws must be toned down to ensure that the quality of food does not deteriorate.
They said that they anticipated at least 50 percent of Indian restaurants closing down because of these new laws.
According to The Scotsman, the stark warning came during a protest at Holyrood over the changes to immigration rules.
At least 100 restaurant owners claimed that the legislation introduced at the end of last month makes it harder for them to bring in staff from outside the European Union.
Foysol Choudhury, general secretary of the Bangladesh Samity Association in Edinburgh, criticised new rules requiring immigrants to speak English and have an academic qualification:
"Our chefs don't need to speak English. Their curry talks. Whoever comes into my restaurant for a job will have to start as a kitchen porter and then he will have to climb the ladder. A kitchen porter gets a minimum wage. Somebody with academic qualifications is not going to accept that," claimed Choudhury.
"The Indian restaurant industry contributes 3.2 billion pounds to the British economy. What is the British government doing to save this industry?" he asked.
Asked about the consequences if action is not taken to tackle the issue, he said: "Half of the restaurants will close and we'll lose the food quality. Eventually this industry will die."
Edinburgh entrepreneur Tommy Miah, who is involved in the International Indian Chef of the Year Competition, and owns the Raj restaurant in Edinburgh, added: "We're going to suffer big time. You guys won't be able to have chicken tikka masala anymore I've been offered a couple of other restaurants to take, but I've said I can't do it because I'm struggling with one restaurant."
Alex Salmond, the First Minister, who is a well-known curry fan, said the issue was "really serious".
Salmond said he would continue to draw the UK government's attention to the matter.
Successive changes to the UK government's immigration policy have made it harder for people from the Indian subcontinent to settle in Britain.
The huge influx of workers from Eastern Europe because of the expansion of the EU has put pressure on Westminster to restrict immigration from outside Europe.
In 2005, ministers decided to close a scheme that allowed workers into the UK to work in the hospitality sector. This was a big blow to Indian and Bangladeshi restaurateurs who wanted to employ compatriots to work with them.
Later this year a new points-based system for managed migration will mean migrants are allowed in only if they can prove they will benefit the UK economy.