UK: Huge ‘immigration health surcharge’ fees paid by foreign NHS workers being reviewed, Priti Patel says

Always was an indefensible policy with the current COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the point (the UK has one of the higher number of deaths due to the pandemic in the EU):

The immigration health surcharge fees paid by foreign healthcare workers– despite working in the NHS themselves – are being reviewed, Priti Patel has said.

The home secretary revealed she had bowed to pressure to look again at the fees, in the light of the “extraordinary contribution” made by medical staff from overseas during the coronavirus pandemic.

Until now, ministers had held firm that the surcharge – due to soar from £400 a year to £624 this October – is a fair way for all migrants to contribute to the likely cost of their NHS care.

At the daily Downing Street press conference, Ms Patel was asked whether it was right to “scrap” the surcharge for overseas NHS staff, “given they too are fighting this pandemic”.

She replied that it was “under review”, adding: “We are looking at everything, including visas and surcharge.

“We are looking at everything now in terms of what we can do to continue to support everyone on the frontline of the NHS.

“We are speaking about the healthcare professionals, the medics, the doctors and nurses and allied healthcare professionals who have come to the UK.”

The possible cut, or removal, of the surcharge was revealed as Ms Patel played down hopes of an early easing of the lockdown as the death toll in hospitals passed 20,000.

She called it a “deeply tragic and moving moment”, warning “we are not out of the woods yet” – and telling people to stick to social distancing instructions.

“Quite frankly that is not right now. It is clear that it is not right now.”

The health surcharge was hugely controversial, even before the current crisis. There is no right of deferral, or ability to pay annually. Instead, it has to be paid in advance for the entire duration of an applicant’s visa or residency permit.

Meanwhile, nurses and junior doctors in training have starting salaries of between £18,000 and £23,000.

They are already paying tax and national insurance, like British nationals, and are therefore being “charged twice” for NHS treatment, campaigners have protested.

Nevertheless, only last month, when he announced his Budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak said it was necessary to ensure that “what people get out, they also put in”.

Once the UK leaves the Brexit transition period – at the end of the year – the government insists it will be paid by all EU citizens, as well as those from the rest of the world.

Around one in every seven NHS workers is foreign-born – a dependence that has attracted growing attention as they have been on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus.

Dame Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said it would welcome a U-turn to exempt nurses from the surcharge.

“The current crisis only serves to highlight the unfairness of charging overseas nurses working in the UK for healthcare services,” she said.

The concession comes ahead of Boris Johnson’s expected return to work in Downing Street on Monday, raising Conservative hopes of an end to the refusal to discuss how the UK will escape the lockdown.

The prime minister is expected back, three weeks after being taken to hospital when his coronavirus symptoms worsened – where he needed oxygen in intensive care, to ensure he survived

Conservative backbenchers have laid bare their frustrations at ministers batting away calls to set out options for easing restrictions, claiming it would underline the ‘stay at home’ message.

On Saturday, Philip Hammond, the former Conservative chancellor, asked if such a plan should be “published now”, replied: “Yes, I think that is the next step.

“I understand the prime minister is going to be back in harness in Downing Street at the beginning of next week and I very much hope that will signal a clear step change.”

Source: Huge ‘immigration health surcharge’ fees paid by foreign NHS workers being reviewed, Priti Patel says

UK: While ‘low-skilled’ migrants are saving us, the government is cracking down on them

Expect all governments will need to reflect upon the importance of lower-skilled immigrants following the pandemic:

This crisis has revealed how arbitrary the phrase “low skilled” is: how we value people, their rights, what they’re paid and the conditions they work in is all wrong. For all its warm words about key workers, the government should be reminded of this.

The day Dominic Raab encouraged us all to clap for the workers who are risking their lives to keep society going, the government restated that some of those same people won’t be allowed in the country come January 2021. While Priti Patel is conspicuously absent – notably on immigration issues – the department she oversees decided now was the time to reiterate that as part of its new immigration rules, “low-skilled” people would not be able to apply for a UK work visa.

Millions of key workers in the UK are migrants – approximately 23% of all hospital staff, including 29% of doctors and 18% of nurses, 20% of agricultural workers, more than 40% of food production workers and 18% of care workers, rising to 59% in London. These are the human beings who, for decades, politicians have blamed for holding down wages, ruining “British culture” and overburdening public services.

Source: While ‘low-skilled’ migrants are saving us, the government is cracking down on them

And the following related critiques:

The government has sparked fury by quietly publishing guidelines for a crackdown on ‘low skilled’ immigration at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Businesses had called for a delay to the new “points based” immigration rules, amid warnings they could throw care homes and healthcare providers into crisis.

And just days ago Boris Johnson’s stand-in Dominic Raab heaped praise on checkout workers and cleaners, saying: “I think you’ve certainly made us all think long and hard about who the ‘key workers’ are in our lives.”

But Home Secretary Priti Patel last night pressed ahead anyway, publishing guidance for employers outlining the new system.

The radical shake-up will block millions of ‘low-skilled’ – by which it means low-paid – workers from coming to the UK.

After Brexit people will have to earn over £25,600, have a job offer and speak English to a certain level in order to get a work visa.

There will be some exceptions for people who earn £20,480 to £25,600 in shortage areas like the NHS.

But the plans have prompted an outpouring of fury from businesses and council who warn sectors like social care face “disaster”.

In response the Home Office told businesses they should simply end their “reliance on cheap, low-skilled labour”.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the guidance was a “slap in the face”.

He said: “These last few weeks have been a stark reminder, not that one should be needed, of the incredibly important  contribution frontline workers make in our communities.

“Workers like nurses, carers, supermarket staff and refuse collectors are playing a vital role in saving lives and keeping our country running, often at risk to themselves. It will be a slap in the face to many of these workers to see themselves classed as low skilled and unwelcome in Britain.”

Tom Hadley, director of policy and campaigns at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), called for a “temporary immigration route” in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Now is not the right time to plough on with immigration reforms. The national effort needs to be focused on eliminating coronavirus, protecting jobs and getting the economy back on track.

“The country will recover from this pandemic – and ensuring businesses have the skills they need in future will be essential to the recovery. From carers and cleaners to retail workers and drivers, the current crisis is showing us how much we depend on people at all skill levels.

“We need a temporary immigration route meet the needs businesses in every sector of the economy. Post-Brexit and post-virus, this will help businesses succeed and support job and growth here in the UK.”A government spokesperson said: “Now that we have left the EU, free movement is coming to an end and we will be introducing a new points-based immigration system from January 2021.

“We want to give employers as much time as possible to prepare for the new system that will bring in the best and brightest to the UK, which is why we have published this guidance today.

“The Government is committed to helping businesses through this difficult time. We have announced unprecedented support for businesses including £330 billion in business loans and guarantees, cash grants for small businesses, paying 80% of furloughed workers’ wages, business rates holidays and tax deferrals.”

Source: Fury as Priti Patel pushes immigration crackdown guide during coronavirus crisis

Immigrants built Britain. Now their Conservative children are disowning them

Not unique to UK (e.g. Betraying their heritage: Trump’s immigration functionaries fail to understand the lessons of the Italian-Amer). In one sense, can be seen as integration:

There are few people who have done more work for recent Conservative immigration policy while not actually being in government than Sajid Javid’s father. In fact, he’s doing two jobs at once. The first is to advertise that the Tories are now the party of social mobility: Javid senior was a bus driver. The second is to be invoked constantly as a defence against charges of Conservative racism and Islamophobia – as a Muslim man, born in Pakistan, who migrated to the UK in the 1960s.

Once this brownwashing is complete, Javid senior plays one final role, with a biblical twist – he is to then be denied by his own son. The route that brought him here – paving the way to his son’s spectacular rise through the City and the government – has been blocked. Under new migration policies, Javid senior would not have been allowed in.

The new policies effectively close Britain’s borders to all those classed as unskilled workers and those who cannot speak English at a certain level. When Javid was asked, in 2018, if he was sad about supporting laws that would have barred his own father, he replied that he was “very optimistic about our future because … we will remain the global-outlook nation that welcomes people from across the world.” Just not people like his father. Last week Priti Patel was a little more blunt when she conceded that her parents, Indians from east Africa, would no longer be welcome. “This is the point,” she said. “We are changing our immigration policy to one that’s fit for purpose for our economy, based on skills.”

Source: Immigrants built Britain. Now their Conservative children are disowning them

Home Office’s immigration boss quit ‘after run-ins with Priti Patel’

More chaos at the UK Home Office?

Bullying allegations engulfing the home secretary, Priti Patel, have intensified as it emerged that “major run-ins” had forced the resignation of one of her department’s most senior civil servants on immigration.

Union sources have revealed that “uncomfortable” demands by Patel had prompted Mark Thomson, the director general of UK Visas and Immigration and HM Passport Office, to announce his departure just weeks after her appointment.

Mick Jones of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the largest trade union for Home Office staff, said that Patel’s approach to various immigration issues had led to Thomson’s resignation.

“He’s indicated to our reps that it was mainly because they had had major run-ins. It was clear that [Patel] had come in and was trying to do things that they [Home Office officials] just weren’t comfortable with and [Thomson] sort of said ‘I’m off then’.”

Source: Home Office’s immigration boss quit ‘after run-ins with Priti Patel’