March 16, 2010
Photo credit: Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN
16 March 2010
Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN,http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/pinoy-migration/03/16/10/pinoy-senior-carers-uk-file-judicial-review
LONDON – It is time to extend compassion and care to Filipinos who came to the UK to care for Britain’s elderly. This is just one of the goals of Kanlungan, a non-profit, charitable institution, in taking cudgels for embattled senior carers who were denied Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK.
Thirty-three year old Jenny Labaria was denied the application of ILR because of the 5-month gap in her work permit. She came to the UK as a care worker in 2004.
“(I’m) very stressed actually. Wala kang peace of mind. Financially nadi-drain na. Kasi nagbabayad ka ng fee for the solicitor. Yes, very unjust towards us,” said Labaria.
Senior carers Evelyn Bolano and Mary Sorilla are also intending to apply for their Indefinite Leave to Remain but are worried that just like the fate of many Filipino senior carers in the UK, their application will also be denied.
“May problem kasi sa work permit ko at visa. May gap sila na 20 days. Ang problem kasi when I apply in September, I might be refused or denied the approval of my residency because of the 20-day gap. So ayaw ko ng ma-experience ng ganung problem again,” said Bolano.
‘Yung visa ko, nag- end nung Oct 12, 2009 at ang bagong visa ko na process at na-approve noong January 19 kaya may gap akong almost 4 months,” said Sorilla.
Sorilla and Bolano have already sought the assistance of Kanlungan. They are supporting the cause of Pinoy senior carers in the UK who are petitioning for a judicial review of their case. The judicial review will challenge in the UK court the way decisions concerning the senior case workers have been made.
UK Immigration toughens up
In the last 10 years, the UK Home Office has issued more than 20,000 work permits to those who want to work as senior care worker in the UK. It has paved the way for migrant workers to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, after working here for 5 years.
In 2004, the UK, in accordance with EU rules, restricted the employment policy of citizens from non-EU countries. The changes were seen in the refusal of UK Home Office to grant 5-year work permits to senior carers, who can apply for permanent residency in the UK. When the UK Home Office refused the renewal of Pinoy carers’ visas, many senior carers were left with no option but to go back to the Philippines. There were also cases of deportation.
Those who remained in the UK continued to challenge the new regulations. With intense pressure from trade and campaign groups and ardent support from Members of Parliament (MPs), the Home Office softened and allowed extension of work permits. It also offered a lifeline to senior carers.
In 2007, the Home Office issued new requirements for the renewal of work permits for senior carers, which include, among others, £7.02 per hour minimum pay. Those whose employers were not willing to take the new going rate had to find new employers which proved difficult.
Gap in work permit
In a desperate attempt to meet the requirements of the Home Office, many senior carers shift from one employer to another. During the transition, it leaves a gap in their work permit visas. It means losing the chance to qualify for a permanent residency which requires 5 years of successive, no-gap work permit visa.
This is problem faced by Labaria, Bolano and Sorilla. While Bolano and Sorilla are about to apply for their ILR and are hoping they will be given consideration, Labaria is only pinning her hopes on the result of the petition for a judicial review.
Labaria already spent almost 2,000 pounds for her application. Some Filipinos have already spent up to 8,000 pounds for their application for ILR.
Kanlungan said the case of senior carers is a classic tale of abuse and injustice against migrant workers.
“Istorya ito ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng manggagawa. Una, naabuso sila dahil sa pagbabago ng batas. Ang proteksyon at karapatan ng migrante pinaglalaban ng mga organisasyon. Hindi yan basta binibigay sa kanila. So yun ang case ng senior carer ngayon,” said Jam Fagta, case worker for Kanlungan.
Kanlungan is hoping to get more senior carers to join them in the plight.
“Ang mga Pinoy, hindi nagrereklamo, hard workers yan kaya ano na lang ang panahon nila sa sarili nila. Ang mga issue nila, di pa nga nila naiintindihan. Kaya ang panawagan ng Kanlungan sa kanila, mag-allot ng panahon para intindihin at suriin ang kanilang issue at tutulong ang organisayon,” said Facta.
UK has amended its immigration rules, which include, among others, limiting working visas to foreign workers and implementation of stricter guidelines for the application of permanent residency. But to Filipino senior carers, the new regulations are discriminatory against them and others who are making an indispensible contribution to UK society.