Bangladeshi restaurants are facing a staffing crisis that could lead to large numbers of closures across the West Midlands and beyond.

Frustrated restaurant owners claim their businesses are being strangled by Government red tape which is preventing them from filling thousands of job vacancies in their kitchens.

"It has been like this for quite some time now and we need help fast or the situation is only going to get worse," said Enim Ali, chairman of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs.

"The problem is in every kitchen you used to have, at least, one old first generation man who had worked there all of his life and could hold everything together but now they are dying off and there is a vacuum that we cannot fill.

"The young kids nowadays have no desire to work in their family restaurants and are going into the professions and who can blame them when they can earn much better money that way."

In 2002, former Home Secretary David Blunkett set-up a short term visa process called the sector based scheme (SBS), the aim of the scheme being to address the problem by allowing employers to bring in workers from abroad on short-term contracts if they were unable to fill job vacancies from the UK labour market.

According to Enim Ali, the restaurants within the Guild spent a total of nearly £5 million on 6,000 visa applications under the scheme but only received 1,900 successful applications for one year visas.

These workers are now due to leave the country and the restaurants fear they will not be able to replace them because the current Home Secretary, Charles Clarke plans to scrap the scheme.

Mr Ali continued: "We have tried to recruit local people, but we have found that the problem becomes one of a language and cultural barrier and it is just does not work. To run a restaurant you need a team from front to back and we can only get that by recruiting staff from overseas.

"One restaurant owner even tried recruiting people from Poland, but they said they did not like the hours and could not adjust to the cultural differences so it's not like we haven't tried."

Khalid Mahmood, prospective Labour party parliamentary candidate for Perry Barr in Birmingham, said: "We understand the need for specialised skilled staff and Charles Clarke has made it clear that there will be opportunities for people to come over when their positions cannot be filled locally.

"But we need to co-ordinate together with these groups and they must realise that they cannot go recruiting from abroad without looking at the local level first. There are a lot of young people in the job market who need these jobs and the restaurants must remember they also have to put something back into the communities they operate in."

Moula Miah, President of the West Midlands region and founder of the Guild, owns three restaurants, one in Birmingham and two in Solihull and said he faces staffing problems on a daily basis.

"I am having this difficulty in all of my restaurants, we just cannot find kitchen porters and cleaners anymore," he said.

"We have tried everywhere and have been through Jobcentre Plus amongst other places but the situation is looking a little bleak.

"Basically, we need the work-permit system to be reinstated and need the appeals system made easier.

"This is not just a problem for us, but for the local economy and with so many restaurants around the UK it is a problem for the country as well."

The Guild will be holding a conference to discuss the problem on Sunday 17 at 1pm at the Holiday Inn in Birmingham.