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HOPS Student Exchange Programme

Volume 477: debated on Thursday 12 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many visas were offered under the HOPS student exchange programme in 2008; and what representations she has received from farmers on the number of places for migrant labourers to enter the UK on the scheme. (208633)

The HOPS student exchange programme is not administered by the UK Border Agency. The UK Border Agency has a Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) that enables the provision of short term, low skilled workers to be employed in the agricultural industry.

The SAWS annual quota for 2008 is 16,250. The quota is managed by nine contracted operators who issue work cards on behalf of the UK Border Agency.

The scheme is exclusively available to Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, therefore no visa is required.

The Secretary of State has received representations from farmers wishing to see an increase in the number of places available on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers programme and for this scheme to be opened to migrants from outside the European Union.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw) and I recently met with the National Farmers’ Union and representatives of SAWS operators at which we discussed the labour needs of the agricultural industry and the challenges facing it for the future. We shall continue to keep in touch with the industry on these issues.