UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is set to announce a new five-year work visa for ‘skilled’ refugees fleeing war. The visa will be made available to refugees who can demonstrate that they have the skills needed to fill vacancies in the UK where there is a shortage of workers. It’s understood that the new visa scheme will operate under a strict points-based system.
Described as a ‘displaced talent mobility scheme’, the visa will be offered to highly skilled people currently living in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, according to a report published by The Times. People feeling conflict in Syria, Gaza and Iraq will also be eligible for the pilot UK visa scheme.
The visa will initially be available to 100 refugees and their families, granting them a skilled worker visa that provides a sanctuary in the UK for up to five years.
Under what will be a strict points-based system, refugees must be able to demonstrate that they have the skills to fill a vacancy that’s on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL) – including architects, care workers, engineers, IT workers, nurses, vets and more.
The pilot scheme is reportedly modelled on similar skilled migration schemes in Australia and Canada, where temporary visas can often represent the first steps toward permanent migration for those seeking refuge.
The Home Office said that the new scheme will be in addition to other resettlement routes for refugees entering the UK.
However, the UK broke a commitment made two years ago to resettle around 5000 refugees a year as part of a scheme that only started in February. Instead, the Home Office scrapped the target figure in March and announced no new figure for its new plans for UK immigration.
Today, MPs will debate and vote on the new Nationality and Borders Bill, which will usher in an overhaul of the UK’s asylum system.
Patel is expected to tell parliament: “The British people have always been generous to refugees. This is a source of great national pride and will never change.”
“Part of our firm but fair approach is to strengthen the safe and legal ways in which people can enter the UK. And I can announce that this government will take action to help those displaced by conflict and violence access our global points-based system,” Patel said.
Talent Beyond Boundaries
The Home Secretary will announce that the Home Office will work with the charity Talent Beyond Boundaries and other partners to establish a pilot project that will allow more talented and skilled people who have fled their homes, to come to the UK and contribute to Britain safely and legally.
“This country does right by those in need,” Patel said.
However, humanitarian groups have blasted the new UK work visa scheme, warning that it prioritises skills over the safety that refugees desperately need.
Chief executive of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, told The Times: “A scheme that supports refugees to rebuild their lives in the UK is to be welcomed but this is a tiny drop in the ocean in the provision of safe routes for people fleeing war, terror and oppression.”
“Without a long-term plan to resettle tens of thousands of people in need of safety, this government’s commitment will continue to ring hollow,” Solomon said.
The news of a UK work visa scheme comes after a group of Conservative MPs, including former UK immigration minister Caroline Nokes and MPs David Simmons and Tim Farron, signed a statement recently urging Priti Patel to put a number on Britain’s commitment to resettling refugees.
The statement said: “Given the polarised nature that public debate can take we will work for unity rather than hostility within our communities. In order for safe routes to have the desired effect of preventing people from making dangerous journeys, it is necessary to have sufficient ambition about the overall number of people able to access the routes provided.”
“The existing safe routes should be maintained and not reduced,” the statement added.
The Home Office also recently announced that it would deny access to UK visas for countries who refuse to take back failed asylum seekers.
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