We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Black Lives Matter and key worker immigration

June 4, 2020 5:35 PM
Originally published by Barnet Borough Liberal Democrats

llkg (Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash)In this update:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • We clapped for the NHS. Now time for a more open approach on key worker immigration

Black Lives Matter - we stand for justice and equality

In the past week, we have all shared in the anger at the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. The way that US police forces have responded to lawful and peaceful protests has been nothing short of shocking. We stand in solidarity with black communities in the US, and are united in our condemnation of the violence, racism and harassment they face. And we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter across the world, across the UK, and in Wiltshire. Tonight Trowbridge park will be holding a peaceful protest at 7pm.

This moment presents a chance to turn our attention to racism within our own society, and to redouble our efforts to extinguish it. We have a moral obligation to speak out where we as a country are falling short. Why are 26% of instances of police using firearms against black people? Why are 51% of young men in custody in the UK from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds? The 2017 Lammy Report concluded that "BAME individuals still face bias, including overt discrimination, in parts of the justice system".

More recently the we have seen that BAME people are 54% more likely than white people to be fined under the new lockdown laws: and we cannot ignore the fact that, according to recent figures from Public Health England, Covid-19 is disproportionately affecting BAME communities. We support calls for a public inquiry into this issue as we urgently need answers for how to tackle this situation.

This fight needs to make a real change, and the Liberal Democrats will support the movement to bring justice and equality for black communities. Black Lives Matter.

Fighting for an open approach to key worker immigration

Prior to the government's about-turn on the immigration health surcharge (a.k.a. the NHS surcharge) last week, your local Liberal Democrats were exploring ways to add our voice to this important campaign. Now, even as the charge is dropped for immigrants working at the frontline of the pandemic, we continue to push for a more sensible approach to immigration that does not shut the door on the very key workers we clap for every Thursday.

This fee (currently £400/year, but set to rise to ~£620 in October) is levied on virtually all UK visa applications, which already cost upward of £1,000. Last week the government partly climbed down, dropping the charge for NHS- and care-workers. But Liberal Democrats believe the government hasn't gone far enough, and should look again at the surcharge overall, the foolish and callous Immigration Bill linked to it, and other protections for frontline workers.

Charging NHS- and care-workers for access to healthcare, on top of other taxes, has been damaging to Britain's reputation as an open society and a magnet for the best talent. We spoke to the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), which lobbied against the charge for over three years before, finally, the unignorable reality of covid-19 made the government see some sense. BAPIO's President, Dr. Ramesh Mehta, told us the policy was "like a slap in the face - that our people are dying in the frontline while serving the UK population, and yet the government was charging them for healthcare, in addition to National Insurance Contributions". Dr. Mehta noted the irony of the NHS asking his organisation several years ago to assist with overseas recruitment efforts, to address shortages amounting to 10,000 doctors and 50,000 nurses.

We believe the government's needlessly aggressive policies such as the NHS surcharge are hampering our ability to attract/retain workers in critical sectors. The surcharge is illogical and should be rolled back entirely. And we encourage citizens to sign the petition to give European citizens living in Britain the automatic right to live and work in the UK. That would send a positive message, irrespective of other damaging changes in the Immigration Bill.

We also think the government needs to back up its praise for NHS workers with tangible improvements. Doctors and nurses are heroes, but they shouldn't have to be martyrs. It's essential we give them the practical support and recognition they need.