LONDON, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Britain's proposed cap on immigration could damage the country's reputation for scientific excellence, a group of Nobel prize-winning scientists has warned.
Eight Nobel laureates, including two Russian immigrants who won the physics prize Tuesday, said visa restrictions would discourage promising students and distinguished scientists from sharing their expertise with British universities and industries, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.
Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov of the University of Manchester, who won the physics prize, might have been put off coming to Britain if an immigration cap had existed when they applied to come here, they claimed.
"If I had had a visa delay, I might have decided to go elsewhere," Novoselov said.
The scientists called on the government to make similar allowances for top figures in science and industry as have been made for top athletes, such as Premiership footballers, wishing to work in Britain.
"The proposed quotas are already damaging research in the U.K.," Paul Nurse, the president-elect of the Royal Society, said. "What sort of policy allows footballers in, but not scientists who can stimulate growth? It is pure madness."
Britain's coalition government introduced an interim cap in July, to be made permanent in April. The number of non-EU workers was limited to 24,100 for 2010.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to bring net immigration, which is currently 176,000 a year, down from "hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands."
A total of 190,640 foreign workers and their dependants moved to Britain last year, despite unemployment in the country reaching 2.5 million, The Daily Telegraph said.