The sell-by date thank you to the NHS

On 31st March 2020 the Government announced that, in order to combat the coronavirus, foreign doctors, nurses and paramedics currently working in the UK would have their visas extended, free of charge, for one year.

This gesture will apply to 2,800 such migrants risking their lives fighting Covid-19 in several hospitals across the country.


Home Secretary Priti Patel said:


Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do.

I don’t want them distracted by the visa process. That is why I have automatically extended their visas – free of charge – for a further year …”


The 1-year visa extension ‘gift’ begs a moral question. How will the Government deal with any NHS migrants who want to stay on beyond the pandemic?

Could this scenario be evocative of the Windrush scandal? Between 1948 and 1971 half a million Afro-Caribbean workers responded to a Government invitation to help rebuild Britain from the ashes of WW2. With the job done, the Immigration Act 1976 came into force implying that migrants had overstayed their welcome in Britain and restricted movement to and from the mother country.


In 2012 the so called  ‘Hostile Environment’ policy introduced by the then Home Secretary Theresa May, made life hell for migrants. Landlords, banks, employers etc. were instructed to refuse anyone who was unable to prove residency in the UK.  Many people, including retired workers from the Windrush generation started to lose their livelihood, homes and benefits. Some were deported.


The Windrush scandal underlined racial undercurrents to a colonial attitude towards people whose labour skills were exploited to benefit the riches of a manipulative Government. And so it is not that long ago when, on 17/04/2018, Theresa May apologised to the Windrush Generation for her ‘Hostile Environment’ campaign.

And now, faced with a deadly pandemic, with the lives of British people in the hands of NHS frontline migrants, one would have hoped the Governed had learned a lesson - one of compassion and gratitude towards useful migrants.   


We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do … That is why I have automatically extended their visas – free of charge – for a further year …” stated Priti Patel - the daughter of first generation migrants herself - in a recent statement.


Whilst we can appreciate the sentiment behind this ‘free of charge’ VISA gesture, to many it will come as another kick in the teeth, soon after the door-slamming Brexit. The 1-year VISA extension is nothing more than a sell-by date thank you. It squeezes out as much as possible out of frontline NHS migrants. And so, thank you ‘Luis from Portugal and Jenny from New Zealand’ for saving the life of Prime Minister Boris Johnson!

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