September 5, 2009
5 September 2009
Some 3,500 Filipino care workers in the United Kingdom failed to get their work permits renewed due to a series of immigration and work permit policy amendments implemented by the UK Border Agency.
Kanlungan, an alliance of Filipino migrant organizations in UK, said that the changes imposed by the UK Border Agency, which is in-charge of migration issues, led to rejection of the workers’ application for permanent residency.
Extended residency requirement
The UK used to allow its immigrant workers to apply for permanent residency only after four years of work in the country.
In 2006, however, this requirement was extended to five years. Because of this, thousands of senior care workers were forced to re-apply for extension of their work permit and visa for at least another year.
This was compounded by the fact that, in 2007, the UK Border Agency issued new requirements for work permits and visas renewal specifically for care workers, which required them to have skills and qualifications at National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 3. This is roughly equivalent to a university degree.
The minimum salary for work permit applicants was also raised to £7.02 per hour, from £5.35 per hour before the changes in immigration rules.
With the national minimum wage in UK pegged at £5.73 in October 2008, the new requirement essentially makes non-European care workers expensive to employ as they are the ones affected by the immigration changes.
Over 3,500 migrant care workers were affected by this new requirement. Most of them even had a hard time looking for new employers. The caregivers had the leave their previous employers as they had to look for employers who can give them enough salary to meet the new requirements.
Adding up to this is the introduction of the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Act 2009, in which a “probationary citizenship” that could run for up to eight years is required before one can apply for full citizenship. According to Kanlungan, this “would make it even harder for everyone to apply for permanent settlement.”
Kanlungan chairman Benny Clutario said that this translates into an increase in number of undocumented migrants in UK. “Sadly, they become undocumented not by choice but because of misguided policies and mismanaged immigration,” he said.
Kanlungan is planning to seek a judicial review of the UK Border Agency policies at the British High Court. A judicial review is a court proceeding in the UK judicial system in which a judge reviews the decision or action made by a public body.
The group is planning to do this by filing a class suit on behalf of all senior care workers affected by the immigration changes.
Clutario has called on all affected senior care workers to show up and provide evidence. “The more senior carers involved in this legal action, the better the chance for success,” he said.
In recent years, the United Kingdom has increasingly become a favorite destination of Filipinos seeking jobs abroad in the care service sector. From 2001 to 2007, UK ranked fourth in the world in terms of the most number of Filipino caregivers working in the country.
This phenomenon has inspired ABS-CBN’s Star Cinema to produce the movie, “Caregiver,” which was released in early 2008 and was top-billed by movie star Sharon Cuneta.
Workers in the health and care service account for more than half of Filipinos deployed in UK.
Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency shows that as of 2006, a total of 1,214 out of the 1,880 workers deployed in the country were listed under the ‘caregivers and caretakers’ category.
Other countries whose nationals also become carers in the UK are India, China and some countries in Africa. But, overwhelmingly most of these workers are Filipino. “Perhaps 90 percent,” Clutario said. (Newsbreak)