Sanwar Ali: additional comments and reporting
International sheep shearers have been granted UK immigration concessions to enter Britain to work with contractors this summer. Special dispensation has been given for foreign shearers – particularly those from Australia and New Zealand - to ensure that Britain’s sheep flock are shorn by professional and experienced shearers.
This is one area of the economy that has benefitted from an immigration concession. There will still be skills shortage in certain areas. Unless there are changes to the UK visa system restaurants, bars and hotels will face difficulties finding suitable staff. As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed in the UK there will be increased demand for staff in the hospitality industry.
The UK immigration concession was secured by the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC). The NAAC’s chief executive, Jill Hewitt, said: “It is a big relief that the concession is now in place and we can start putting together the necessary paperwork for shearers to safely enter the UK.”
However, despite the concessions, the NAAC did warn that regular shearers from certain countries will be prohibited from travelling because of COVID-19 restrictions. UK farmers are now being urged to contact their shearers as soon as possible to plan work and ensure that the sheep-shearing season runs as smoothly as possible.
COVID shearing checklist
It’s understood that a shearing safety checklist has been issued amid the pandemic to ensure that shearers, wool handlers and farmers can continue to operate safely while maintaining high animal welfare standards. The list includes shearers travelling to jobs in their own vehicle where possible, and if they are accommodated on farms, maintaining social distancing.
Other safety measures include the disinfection of vehicle cabs after every use and the minimum number of people being employed to undertake the job.
The UK immigration conditions for international shearers mean that those coming from Australia and New Zealand (often referred to as the antipodes in Britain), will be able to enter the country between 1 April and June 30, 2021 for a maximum of three months.
Satisfy UK immigration rules
Shearers coming to the UK from overseas must be able to demonstrate to UK immigration officers that they are only in the country for a temporary stay, not exceeding three months, to work as a sheep shearer and have a contract of employment.
It’s understood that the NAAC is handling the necessary paperwork for its members to ensure that the entry process is as smooth as possible for international sheep shearers.
Tourists head to Britain
News of international sheep shearers being granted UK immigration concessions comes amid reports that 8,000 tourists a day are arriving in Britain, despite COVID-19 travel restrictions. UK immigration staff at borders across Britain claim to be feeling ‘demoralised’ by the number of people coming to the UK in breach of public health rules.
Border Force staff claim that the Home Office is continuing to issue UK visit visas, despite a recent announcement made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning of a ‘traffic light’ system that will be used on Brits hoping to head abroad for a summer holiday.
Former UK border officer, Chris Hobbs, said: “UK immigration staff at Gatwick and Heathrow are not having a happy time at the moment. I’m reliably informed there’s virtually no checks on tourists leaving the UK at the moment. There’s no police checking documents or questioning. If you want to go you can basically go if you are prepared to take a small risk.”
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