It’s not just non-British NHS workers who should get indefinite leave to remain.
Our party has rightly come out and argued that doctors, nurses and paramedics at the frontline who are not British citizens should not just have their visas extended by one year (as reported in the Independent, but be given an indefinite leave to remain in the UK. This offer is to be welcomed, but we need to go further. There are many community care workers working unselfishly with disabled and elderly people in their own homes, community centers and retirement centres throughout the country who have come from overseas and are now risking their lives. Members of the fire and rescue services are also helping the national effort and putting their lives at risk – they must also be given the same rights.
But shouldn’t we go further? Many have lived here for years, have long-term partners and often children. They have some of the lowest incomes in the country and cannot even think about applying for British nationality. Shouldn’t we be offering to waive the fees for the “life in the UK” test (£50), language tests (£150) and naturalisation (£1330) for them and their families?
The Conservative government’s hostile environment for non-British workers and its approach to Brexit has meant that many hospitals and care homes had staff shortages even before the Corona crisis broke. It’s now time to do the right thing.
* Robert Harrison is the Chair of the Liberal Democrats in Europe. He works as a technology consultant in the medical device sector and is currently advising on developing novel personal protection equipment and diagnostic kits.