The new immigration bill, ending free movement within the EU, may be intended create a ‘high-skill’ economy, but comes at a high cost for the British society.
On Monday 18th of May, the House of Commons accepted the proposed new immigration bill by 351 votes to 252. Such a development is unfortunate not only for the image the UK is projecting to the world, but also for internal affairs, especially in addition to the on-going crisis that is COVID-19.
The new system in short
The immigration bill proposes a new system for determining who is allowed to make a life in the UK. In accordance with Brexit, it repeals freedom of movement within the EU and classes EU/EEA-citizens as equal to overseas immigrants. This promotes a points-based system for immigration, which pushes for a rather gruesome way of classifying people. Crucially, the bill intentionally denies entry from ‘low-skilled’ workers defined as those who do not have a qualification equal to A-levels. A visa applicant must have a salary over £25,600, unless they are in a particular shortage occupation, in addition to having an adequate level of English. As the bill passed the House of Commons, it will now undergo further parliamentary scrutiny.
Implications of the points-based system
The bill is argued for on the basis that it will create a ‘high-skill’ economy by blocking routes of ‘cheap labour’, as Home Secretary Priti Patel claims, and thus aid the UK on the journey to economic recovery after being severely hit by coronavirus. However, what this means in practice seems quite different: those sectors that have shown up the most during the pandemic are hit the hardest. For example, a sixth of care workers are foreigners, yet their required qualifications and salary level are very unlikely to meet the threshold for a visa. Why is it that we are so happy to show our appreciation for our carers by clapping, but when the workers in those industries happen to be foreign, all that appreciation turns into a narrative of job-stealing immigrants? Furthermore, by now the pandemic should have convinced everyone of the undeniable fact that we are all completely dependent on those very workers, such as cleaning staff, shop workers or refuse collectors, who in the new system are deemed ‘low-skilled’. It is time for us to show appreciation for the brave individuals who work these jobs regardless of their nationality, not merely by a symbolic act, but by compassionate public policy.
End to a lot more than just free movement
Rather ironically, this discriminatory proposal passed the House of Commons during Mental Health Awareness Week the theme of which was kindness. Reducing people from incredibly diverse backgrounds and individual circumstances to points and numbers determining their fate in the UK is quite the opposite of a kind approach. Last week, Mind UK highlighted the importance of kindness in public policy. Indeed, compassion, openness and empathy are more productive starting points for policy. We at JAN Trust have zero tolerance to any kind of discrimination, and recognise the huge efforts of foreign workforce before and during this pandemic. We have been supporting women from the most marginalised communities since 1989, yet clearly, work remains to be done. Many of our services are aimed for women who have migrated from abroad: for example, we offer ESOL-courses, as well as mentoring, advice and guidance in issues of refuge/asylum, immigration, employment, housing and life in the UK just to mention a few. Our experience of supporting hundreds of thousands of women has convinced us of that through community-based integration, everyone is able to reach their full potential.
At the end of the day, we need immigrants – not merely for labour for our economy, but also for an inclusive, diverse and fair society.