Oxfordshire Liberal Democrats

UK citizenship for EU NHS workers

Liberal Democrats on Oxford City Council call for UK citizenship to be granted to EU National Health Service workers.

On Monday 18 May, the Home Secretary Priti Patel rushed her points-based Immigration Bill through its first stage in the Commons. It threatens the future of 180,000 EU Nationals – NHS staff and care workers – in the UK. It also threatens the sustainability and future of our health and social care services, locally and nationally.

This Immigration Bill had been withdrawn a month earlier, on 21 April, when it was clearly the worst possible time to attack NHS and care workers, but has now been passed with a huge majority of 99.

Lib Dem Councillors respect and applaud the NHS workers, whether British, EU or other nationals, who are risking their own lives while looking after patients in the UK during the COVID crisis. We are equally concerned for ‘essential workers’ like carers, hospital cleaners, supermarket checkout workers who, as ‘low-skilled’, will be afforded no protection of their immigration status – special exemptions have been made for fruit-pickers but not for care workers!

So, while Ministers clap for the NHS and Care Staff every Thursday, last Monday, 18 May, the Government showed what they really thought of the ‘foreign nationals’ who care for us day-in and day-out.

There are 1,500 EU nationals working in the NHS in Oxford (not counting EU nationals working in social care and ancillary jobs). The time for making applications to the EU Settlement Scheme has not been extended, and the deadline is now less than 15 months away, on 30 June 2021- in the case of a no deal Brexit, however, the deadline for application to the settlement scheme will be 31 December 2020. The scheme only provides pre-settled or settled status, it does not grant UK citizenship.

For the 2,800 doctors and nurses who are non-EU foreign nationals the situation is equally serious and demotivating. The Home Office has only offered to extend the visas of these doctors and nurses by one year from 1 October 2020 (the prospect of a fast-track visa for doctors is suddenly in the air, but this won’t be available for all the other NHS staff). Once that time has passed, those who have risked their lives for UK citizens during arguably the worst time of the pandemic will no longer have a right to stay if they do not meet the arbitrary definition of a ‘skilled worker’ set out by this government.

Liberal Democrats support the grant of automatic UK Citizenship to EU workers in the NHS and their accompanying family members in recognition of their service to the UK during the COVID crisis.

We, the Oxford Liberal Democrat Councillors, are writing to the Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP, Home Secretary, to request that not only EU workers in the NHS, but also other key workers and their families, be granted automatic UK citizenship.

For more information contact Cllr Liz Wade.

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