NewsUK Begins Deportations of African Care Workers Amid Controversial Immigration Reforms

UK Begins Deportations of African Care Workers Amid Controversial Immigration Reforms

In a shocking development, the UK government has started deporting care workers back to their home countries in Africa as of May 19th, 2024. This move comes as part of sweeping changes to the UK’s immigration system aimed at reducing overall migration numbers. The policy has drawn sharp criticism from care sector leaders, migrant rights advocates, and opposition politicians who argue it will exacerbate staffing shortages and tear families apart.

Home Office Announces Deportations of African Care Workers

On the morning of May 19th, the Home Office released a statement confirming that deportation notices had been issued to “a number of individuals on Health and Care Worker visas who no longer meet the requirements.” While the exact number was not provided, sources indicate that up to 800 African care workers may be affected in this first wave.

The deportation orders were made possible by reforms to the Health and Care visa route implemented in March 2024. Under the new rules, care workers are no longer permitted to bring dependant family members with them to the UK.

Those already in the country have been told their relatives must leave or face deportation themselves. Home Secretary James Cleverly defended the policy, stating: “We recognise that healthcare workers do great work in our NHS and health sector, but it’s also important that immigrants make a big enough financial contribution. We cannot justify inaction in the face of clear abuse, manipulation of our immigration system and unsustainable migration numbers.”

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Care Sector Faces Worsening Staff Shortages

However, care providers have reacted to the deportations with dismay, warning that losing hundreds of experienced staff will intensify the workforce crisis facing the sector. There are currently over 150,000 vacancies in adult social care in the UK, with a 9.9% vacancy rate.

Demand is only projected to grow, with an additional 236,000 full-time care staff needed over the next decade according to the Migration Advisory Committee.

Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, said the government had “pulled the rug out” from under care homes and that some were now facing closure. “We have members who rely on these workers and have invested in them over 3-4 years, only to have them snatched away,” she told the Guardian.

The loss of African care workers is expected to hit the sector especially hard. In the 12 months to September 2023, over 18,000 care workers and home carers came to the UK from Nigeria alone, with thousands more from Ghana, Zimbabwe and other African nations. These migrants have played a vital role in filling chronic staff gaps.

Families Separated by Immigration Changes

Behind the headlines are hundreds of care workers who now face the agonizing choice of leaving their jobs or being separated from their families. Under the reformed visa route, only children born in the UK are permitted to stay with sponsored care workers.

Spouses and other dependants are no longer eligible.One Zimbabwean care worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that the policy had left her “heartbroken.” Despite working 40 hours per week, her employer had cut her shifts, making it impossible to save enough to bring her 9-year-old daughter to the UK before the rules changed.

“Some people who are being affected are victims of circumstances. They don’t have money to bring children because the employer is enslaving them,” she said. “It is also unfortunate that this policy will promote long-distance relationships which would have a negative impact on marriages and families. Because of poverty, parents would be forced to separate to survive.”

Migrant rights organizations argue that these family separations are cruel and unnecessary. Aké Achi, CEO of Migrants at Work, said: “For the government to ignore dependants of carers is cruel, inhumane and discriminatory.”

Legal Challenge Launched Against Visa Changes

In response to the deportation orders, Migrants at Work has filed for a judicial review of the visa reforms on behalf of affected care workers. The advocacy group contends that barring care workers from bringing family members is discriminatory and breaches human rights law.

Their legal action argues that the Home Office failed to properly consider the impact on care workers and their families, as well as the wider social care sector. Solicitor Jeremy Bloom accused the Home Secretary of disregarding how the changes would worsen staff shortages.

The High Court is expected to hear the case in the coming weeks. In the meantime, care workers with dependants in the UK have been advised to seek legal advice urgently.

Government Defends Immigration Reforms

The Home Office has so far refused to back down in the face of fierce criticism of its care visa reforms. A government spokesperson insisted that immigration was “not a long-term solution” to the UK’s social care challenges.

“An estimated 120,000 dependants accompanied 100,000 care workers in the year ending September 2023. These numbers are unsustainable, which is why reforms are now in effect restricting care workers from bringing dependants with them,” they said.

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However, the government’s rationale has been called into question by migration experts. Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, argues that the demand for migrant care workers is driven primarily by poor pay and conditions in the sector, which make jobs unattractive to UK workers.

Sumption and other critics say the reforms fail to address these underlying causes, while punishing migrants for the government’s reluctance to invest in social care. Instead of providing a long-term workforce strategy, they argue the changes just shift the crisis onto the shoulders of low-paid care workers.

Calls for Government to Reverse Deportations

As the first African care workers are threatened with removal from the UK, pressure is mounting on the government to abandon its plans. The Relatives & Residents Association, which represents care home residents and their families, has written to the Prime Minister urging him to intervene.” Our members are extremely concerned about the impact these deportations will have on the quality of care their loved ones receive,” the letter states. “Care homes are already stretched to breaking point and can ill afford to lose dedicated staff.

We appeal to you to reverse this misjudged policy before lasting damage is done.” The Labour Party has also demanded a U-turn, with Shadow Social Care Minister Liz Kendall blasting the “shameful” treatment of migrant care workers. “The very people we have relied on throughout the pandemic are being repaid by having their families ripped apart,” she said. “This is not only immoral but utterly self-defeating for a care sector already on its knees.”

With the legal challenge pending and opposition growing, the future of the African care workers caught up in the deportation drive hangs in the balance. For now, those affected face an anxious wait to see if they will be forced to choose between their livelihoods in the UK and their families.

To find out how you can support care workers and their families threatened by deportation, please visit the websites of Migrants at Work and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. You can also write to your MP to voice your opposition to the deportations and visa changes.

If you are a care worker affected by these issues, you can access free legal advice and support through the Here for Good charity.

Also Read:

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UK Opens 4 New Immigration Routes for Africans, Indians and Asians in 2024 – No IELTS Required

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