Comments by Sanwar Ali:
The end of free movement for newly arriving EU nationals will mean more skills shortages in the UK. There are already widely publicised skills shortages of care workers and farm workers. The situation will become even worse after the end of 2020. The new UK visa system is unable to cope with this.
Britain’s third largest trade union, the GMB, has warned that the new UK visa and immigration system - set to come into effect on 1 January 2021 - could leave the country ‘desperately short’ of key workers because many of them are ‘foreign.’ According to the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, many would be ineligible for a UK visa.
National Secretary for the GMB, Rehana Azam, said: “Health and social care, for example, rely heavily on workers from abroad. We have huge numbers of vacancies and the current workforce is already under incredible pressure.”
Key workers are deemed by the government to be those employed in sectors that are ‘essential’, including health and social care, education, food production, transport and other vital public services.
New UK immigration system under fire
The new UK immigration system has come under fire since it was first announced toward the end of 2019. Much of Britain’s business community and several immigrant advocacy groups have criticised the so-called Australian-style ‘points-based system’, which has come under further scrutiny since the coronavirus pandemic struck Britain in March.
The UK’s immigrant community has played a huge role in keeping Britain safe and moving over the last several months, and with the country in the grip of a second wave, foreign nationals are likely to be called into further action in the months to come, serving on the frontline as Britain enters the winter season.
Despite the heroics of foreign nationals, working alongside Brits throughout the pandemic, the government seems determined to continue its ‘hostile environment’ approach toward immigrants, much to the dismay of many.
There has been particular hostility toward Westminster over its treatment of foreign nationals who work for the NHS. In recent weeks, the government has been accused of breaking promises and refusing to extend a free UK visa renewal scheme for health and social workers.
Government claims firmer, fairer UK immigration system
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the government continues to apply a hardline stance toward immigration. A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The government is committed to delivering a firmer, fairer, points-based immigration system, based on the skills people have and not where they come from.
“We have removed the Resident Labour Market Test to make it easier for employers to sponsor workers and suspended the cap on skilled migrants. We are also introducing special schemes to enable more scientists, academics, investors, entrepreneurs, and health and care workers to come to the UK easily, so that we can work with sectors to fill roles quickly where shortages may occur,” the spokesperson added.
However, the new immigration system will include no route for so-called low-skilled workers, which would include many people working in health and care occupations. Jobs at the lower-end of the salary scale in key sectors such as health, social care, education, food production and more, would not earn enough to qualify for a UK visa under the new system.
A number of business groups and immigrant advocates have urged the government to rethink its approach to the UK immigration system, claiming that restrictions will only harm Britain’s economic recovery long-term.
The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill has been a constant source of debate within Westminster for the last 12 months. Just recently, MPs voted to remove child refugee protections from the Bill.
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