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Liberal Democrats

Let's give coronavirus heroes the right to stay

Those who have put their lives at risk for our country should be welcome to live in it.

By Liberal Democrats, Nov 19, 2020 5:11

Like the rest of our wonderful NHS and care staff, thousands of people from other countries have been on the frontline throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Foreign nationals working in the NHS deserve the right to remain in the UK.

We cannot thank them enough for the brave and tireless work they are doing in such difficult circumstances and under such intense pressure.

By protecting us, they’ve put themselves at risk - with many paying the ultimate price.

Their skills have been vital to all of us, this year more than ever, which is why Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to give all foreign nationals working in the NHS and social care indefinite leave to remain in the UK. 

This would be a small way to recognise and celebrate the enormous contributions that people from all over the world make to our public services and our society more broadly.

Those who have risked their lives for our country should be welcome to live in it.

That's why Christine Jardine has written to the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, urging him to make Government time available to pass the Immigration (Health and Social Care Staff) Bill through the House of Commons as soon as possible.

The Bill which was brought in with cross-party support on 1st September was due to have its second reading on Friday 6th November.

However, because of the Government’s decision to push back all Private Member’s Bills it is now not due to be debated until next year.

The idea that anyone who has worked so hard to save lives during this emergency might one day be forced to leave is unthinkable.

Our health and care staff cannot afford to wait that long.

Currently, the Government has only granted 1-year visa extensions for around 3,000 health and care staff who had visas due to expire before 1st October 2020. This isn't good enough. 

Not only does this exclude key workers such as hospital porters, cleaners and social care workers, but - for the small number who have been given a 1-year extension - they will be forced to pay £700 for their renewed visa or must otherwise leave the country.

It is completely unacceptable that anyone working on the frontline and putting themselves in harm’s way during the coronavirus crisis should have to worry about whether or not their visa will be extended. 

The UK should say, loudly and unequivocally, that those who have put their lives at risk for our country are welcome to live in it.

They and their families should be granted the right to settle here, without the costs or bureaucratic hurdles that usually involves.

We are urging Rees-Mogg to bring through the Bill in Government time, as soon as possible.

The Bill is already drafted. It has cross-party support. It is urgently needed to protect the rights of these coronavirus heroes, and to provide them with some certainty and security at this very difficult time.

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