Opinion: Hypocrisy does not even begin to describe this immigration bill
- Credit: PA
Week after week, Conservative MPs went out on a Thursday night to clap for carers and key workers.
This week, they have voted through a piece of legislation that will block many of those same people from coming to this country. Hypocrisy doesn’t even begin to describe it.
The Immigration Bill, which passed through the House of Commons this week, will bring the free movement of people to an end. There are many reasons why I oppose this, but perhaps the most galling is that it will mean that many of the people who have been working tirelessly in our NHS, care homes and other vital services during this pandemic will no longer be allowed to come to live in this country.
Here in Hampstead and Kilburn, we have workers from all over Europe and the world working in our NHS and care services. The Royal Free has got to be one of the most diverse hospitals in the country, and it is all the stronger for it. Our community has a proud tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world, and we see all the time the huge contribution they make to our everyday lives. This crisis has shone a spotlight on that contribution.
It is quite frankly insulting to dismiss these everyday heroes as ‘unskilled’ and unwelcome in our country, when they have quite literally been putting their lives on the line to keep us safe. Weeks of clapping mean nothing if we do not have the decency to make these key workers feel welcome here.
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Ending freedom of movement will also have a disastrous impact on both our NHS and economy. The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and Unison have all raised concerns about the impact of this of NHS staffing, at a time when there are already 40,000 nursing vacancies. Businesses in sectors of the economy which are struggling due to Covid-19 are very worried about the further damage that the Immigration Bill will do at their most precarious moment.
In place of free movement, the government wants to introduce a so-called “points-based” immigration that discriminates against immigrants on the basis of a salary threshold. If this crisis has shown us anything, it is that pay is no way to judge someone’s value to society - some of the people who have been most crucial in the fight against Covid-19 have the lowest wages. However, we can see the glaring problems with this new system by looking at what it would mean for EU citizens currently working the UK. Two thirds of health and care workers from the EU would be ineligible for a visa under the new rules. That figure rises to around 80 per cent for social care staff and 90pc for workers in transport and storage.
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I have spent a great deal of time fighting to keep freedom of movement. I believe that these freedoms are not just good in themselves, but they have brought great benefits to our communities and economy.
The challenges we face in the coronavirus crisis are global. It is more important than ever that we look outward and work with other countries to overcome them together, not turn in on ourselves and shut out the rest of the world. That is the vision of society that I will always fight for.
This is not a time to turn in on ourselves and shut out the rest of the world. That is the vision of society that I will always fight for.