Immigration Fees for Healthcare Workers Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Immigration Fees for Healthcare Workers

Bell Ribeiro-Addy Excerpts
Monday 30th January 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Bell Ribeiro-Addy Portrait Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) on the way she laid out the debate.

Everybody should realise that the NHS has always relied on staff from all over the world. It literally would not exist without the contribution of doctors, nurses and NHS staff from outside the UK, starting with the Windrush generation, who were also treated terribly by this Government’s Home Office.

The NHS is currently in a dire state, and the industrial action being taken by care workers is a clear example of that. At the heart of the crisis facing our health service is the struggle to recruit and retain healthcare staff, and the cost of living makes that even worse. Some healthcare workers who are paid less are having to use food banks, and in-work poverty is even greater for migrant workers due to the cost of living.

Reducing the cost of visa applications for overseas healthcare workers seeking indefinite leave to remain is not only just and fair, particularly for their families, but it would address the recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS by encouraging overseas workers to remain in the profession. It lacks humanity and economic sense to leave those key workers living in perpetual uncertainty about whether they can remain in the UK. They have to pay extortionate fees to do so, but they are working and contributing to the economy of this country.

The Government have repeatedly argued—the hon. Member for Delyn (Rob Roberts) said this too—that not giving special treatment to NHS workers is about creating a level immigration system, but our immigration system has never been equal and the people making applications have never been treated the same. That is reinforced by the Government’s points-based system. A millionaire who wants permanent residency in the UK can move things along a lot faster just by putting millions in a bank account in the UK. There is a shortage occupation list. There are thresholds for being able to bring family members over. We differentiate between people who have ILR and certain visas on the basis of whether children they have here are automatically granted British citizenship. We have never treated everybody equally, and on top of that we charge some the immigration health surcharge—even NHS workers.

Several healthcare professionals from across the country, both from migrant backgrounds and not, support this petition. I will talk about what one of them said to me. It costs £2,400 for an ILR visa, but he is being asked to pay 10 times more for his family. That family of four is being asked to pay £12,000 just to have indefinite leave to remain. He said:

“NHS staff get recruited to work in terrible conditions. We can’t pay our bills, and then we’re charged thousands of pounds just to stay here and work. Given the terrible NHS staff shortages, this policy reaches next-level stupidity.”

I agree with that doctor. We cannot afford to lose doctors such as him, especially when other countries are taking steps to attract them. We have already heard about how some people are leaving us. Given the shortages of NHS staff in this country, we simply cannot afford that. We will tackle the chronic shortages only by treating all staff decently.

The Government have explained again that they are maintaining their hostile environment—I know they call it something else—to make the country less attractive to people who want to enter it illegally. Obviously, I take issue with the people they term “illegal”, but they are also making it hostile for people who, by their own definition, are legal. How does that make any sense? Those people have been asked to come here to support our services. We are not talking about people who are visitors, or who want to take from our country. We are talking about people who are saving people’s lives—who are working in our NHS daily, who saw us right through the pandemic. Those people have left their own countries to come and serve ours, and they are doing a fantastic job.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does she agree that the Government are behaving in a rather ironic way by encouraging people from skilled professions and backgrounds to come to our country to work, but then making it very difficult for them to settle?

Bell Ribeiro-Addy Portrait Bell Ribeiro-Addy
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Why are we making overtures to people in other countries and waiting for them to come here, only to treat them with complete contempt and disrespect and leave them in really serious situations where they are trying to support their families, and also making it difficult for their families to remain here? We all understand how important it is to have our families around us, but as we have already heard, some people have to leave their families behind and then face unreasonable barriers to bringing them into the country.

These people are doing so much for us, coming to our country to serve us as NHS workers at all levels: doctors, nurses, cleaners and porters, and let us not forget our social care workers. We need to make sure that we are treating them with the respect they deserve, no matter where they happen to have been born.