Boris Johnson restricts foreign health workers while applauding them
- The UK government accused of hypocrisy for pushing ahead with a new immigration law designed to limit the number of low-paid workers coming to the UK.
- Home Secretary Priti Patel says the UK's new points-based system will be "firmer, fairer, and simpler" than current laws which allow free movement from the EU.
- However, opposition parties have accused the UK government of hypocrisy for making it harder for foreign health workers to come to the UK while joining weekly national applause for NHS staff.
- Labour's shadow home secretary said the plans were "an insult to our incredible NHS staff and care workers."
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Boris Johnson's government has been accused of "rank hypocricy" for pushing ahead with plans to make it harder for foreign health workers to work in the UK, while clapping those currently in the National Health Service for their role in fighting Covid-19.
Johnson and other senior ministers have been filmed participating in the UK's weekly "Clap for Carers" event in which British people applaud NHS workers and key workers from their doorsteps, widows and balconies.
However, opposition parties say this is incongruent with the UK government's new immigration system.
The UK Home Secretary Priti Patel will on Monday bring the government's Immigration Bill back to the House of Commons for its second reading, with the bill almost certain to pass.
Once implemented, it will require all immigrants from January 2021 to have a sufficient number of "points" before being authorised to work in the UK. Applicants will need at least 70 points to be granted a visa, excluding many lower paid workers.
All applicants must also be able to speak English to a certain level, and have a job offer at a "required skill level" that is sponsored by an employer approved by the UK government.
Home Secretary Patel said the new "points-based" system would be "firmer, fairer, and simpler" than the EU's free movement of people, which the UK has followed for years as one of the bloc's member states.
Johnson's government also plans to add to its immigration system a "fast-track visa" for NHS workers. At £464, the visa will be half of the cost of visas for other foreign workers, and applicants will receive a decision within two weeks.
However, the prime minister's opponents have criticised his government for making it harder for low-paid foreign workers to take up key roles in the NHS and elsewhere while the UK is so reliant on their work.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary, has written to Patel describing the government's plans to close-off routes to the UK for low-paid foreign workers as a "threat to the national interest."
"I believe the government's plan to rush through this immigration legislation is an insult to our incredible NHS staff and care workers," he said in a letter to Patel reported by The Guardian newspaper.
"It is, frankly, rank hypocrisy from the government towards EU nationals - over 180,000 in England and Wales alone - who are currently working in our NHS and in the care sector, for ministers to stand and clap for them on a Thursday night, and then tell them that they are not welcome in the UK on a Monday."
The Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to the UK government's immigration bill that if successful would stop it passing into law altogether.
The party, which until recently campaigned to stop Brexit, opposes ending the free movement of European citizens to and from the UK, and says the government's new plans would not allow"businesses and public services to recruit the workers they need."
Christine Jardine, the party's home affairs spokesperson, said: "It is hard to believe that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Conservatives are still pressing ahead with their destructive plans. "Now more than ever, we should be celebrating the enormous contributions that workers from all over the world make to our NHS, social care and across our society. Priti Patel may consider care workers to be 'low skilled', but they are on the front lines protecting us and our loved ones every single day. "If the Conservatives go ahead with these plans, they will deal a massive new blow to the NHS and British businesses, just as the economy is beginning to recover from the coronavirus crisis."
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