UK grants residency status to families of low paid migrant workers who died fighting coronavirus
London, May 21, 2020 (AltAfrica)-A bereavement scheme granting residency permit (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK to relatives of foreign national NHS staff who die from Covid-19 has been extended to low-paid workers after their exclusion attracted criticism from Labour, trade unions and workers.
The scheme, introduced last month, was intended to offer security to the families of foreign national employees but initially excluded cleaners, porters and social care workers.
The GMB described their omission as an “outrageous scandal” and another example of low paid workers being “left out in the cold”. Hours before the Home Office announced the U-turn on Wednesday, a hospital cleaner posted a video on Twitter pleading with Boris Johnson to extend the scheme.
Hassan Akkad, a Bafta-winning filmmaker from Syria, said he was proud of the work he was doing but felt “stabbed in the back” when he found out he did not qualify for the Home Office scheme.
He said: “I’ve been really enjoying the clapping that you and your fellow ministers in the government do every week. Today, however, I felt betrayed, stabbed in the back.
“I felt shocked to find out that you’ve decided, your government decided, to exclude myself and my colleagues who work as cleaners and porters and social care workers who are … all on minimum wage, you’ve decided to exclude us from the bereavement scheme.
“So if I die fighting coronavirus my partner … isn’t allowed an indefinite leave to remain.”
Akkad, 23, arrived in the UK in late 2015, documenting his difficult journey for a BBC film that went on to win a Bafta. Last month, he tweeted at his pride at joining the team of cleaners at Whipps Cross hospital, in east London, disinfecting Covid wards.
In the video, Akkad said he signed up at about the same time as Johnson was in hospital and expressed hope the prime minister would listen because he saw a “different Boris” when he was discharged from hospital.
Akkad concluded: “Us migrants are on the frontline, doing these very demanding jobs to help this patient overcome this pandemic. And the least you can do if we die, to give our families indefinite leave to remain. Please reconsider and I hope to hear back from you, thank you.”
By Wednesday evening his tweet had been liked or retweeted more than 100,000 times.
Announcing the extension, the home secretary, Priti Patel said: “Every death in this crisis is a tragedy, and sadly some NHS support staff and social care workers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of saving the lives of others.
“When I announced the introduction of the bereavement scheme in April, I said we would continue to work across government to look at ways to offer further support. Today we are extending the scheme to NHS support staff and social care workers.
“We want to ensure families have the support they need and so this will be effective immediately and retrospectively.”
Despite the change of heart on the bereavement scheme, Johnson said on Wednesday there was no intention of scrapping the immigration health surcharge for overseas health workers for using the NHS because “it’s very difficult in the current circumstances to find alternative sources [of cash]”. The surcharge, currently £400 a year, is set to rise to £624 in October and must be paid by all family members.