Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine urges ministers to act and offer “safety and comfort” to those who risk their lives during the pandemic.
Speaking to The Scotsman, the Edinburgh West MP said failing to do so could see the heroes of the pandemic face costly visa fees or even be deported.
Ms Jardine, who has tabled a private member’s bill to achieve the ambition, said: ‘So many of us are grateful to our NHS and our caregivers in this pandemic that it seems like the best way appropriate to say thank you, to say to those who are here on visas and want to stay and contribute, yes of course you are welcome.
‘When the pandemic was at its height and the daily death toll was appalling, many of the people most at risk in the NHS and care sector at no time backed down from the threat to their own. well-being.
“Now that many of them who live here make an invaluable contribution to our society and want to stay, it is certainly unreasonable to ask them to pay the visa fees or face the threat of deportation.”
Earlier this year it was announced that the NHS and social service staff would see their visas extended for one year, but Ms Jardine insisted that was not enough.
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She explained, “They are here legally, worked hard, saved lives and made an amazing contribution to bring this country through the worst pandemic and economic crisis in recent history.
“Without them the burden on our NHS and our care sectors would have been so much greater for everyone. “
The UK employs 170,000 non-UK people from over 200 countries in the NHS, representing 14% of all NHS staff.
One of them is Dr Krizun Loganathan, who worked in a busy intensive care unit during the first wave of the Covid pandemic.
The Merseyside Accident and Emergency (A&E) doctor is concerned about the threat of deportation and the impact visa fees have on him and his colleagues.
He said: “Immigrant healthcare workers, in all roles, worked hard long before the existence of Covid and were really successful during the pandemic. Many have lost their lives on the front lines.
“They showed up, even when they knew the virus was sometimes deadlier to them.
“Now, on top of all that, they are exhausted or overpriced, due to visa fees and the threat of deportation.
“This bill will ease a huge psychological and financial burden on the shoulders of these vital NHS workers, so that they can continue to pull us out of this crisis. “
The bill was also supported by Dolin Bhagawati, acting co-chair of the Doctors’ Association UK.
He said: “They are dedicated professionals who have rendered heroic service over the past 18 months. Yet they live with the potential for deportation over their heads at all times.
“Over the past year, the Doctors’ Association UK has assisted doctors and their families who have been threatened with deportation while working in Covid services and risking their lives to treat the British public. Our colleagues do not deserve such persecution action.
“These colleagues continue to work despite the exhaustion faced by all NHS staff and face increasing waiting lists for GPs, A&E, mental health and specialists.
“We need their skills and knowledge, or the NHS will face even bigger challenges that simply will not be overcome, with a current staff shortage already of around 100,000.
“They have shown an unwavering commitment to this country and its people and their selfless sacrifice must be recognized.
“Voting against this bill would be contemptuous of frontline NHS staff. Supporting this bill is the moral and decent thing to do.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said, “We recognize the enormous contribution overseas healthcare professionals are making across the country in the fight against the coronavirus.
“The automatic visa extension, which will benefit key health professions working in the social care sector, such as nurses, occupational therapists and social workers, is just one of the ways the government is showing its support. and his gratitude.
“More broadly, eligible healthcare professionals and their dependents can apply for the new Fast Track Health and Care Visa, making it easier and faster for the world’s best healthcare professionals to work in the NHS, the social care sector and for those organizations providing commissioned services to the NHS.
SNP Home Affairs Spokesman Stuart McDonald said: ‘The Conservative government’s hostile approach to immigration is hurting the Scottish economy and our public services, driving out talented people that we need to attract, including the frontline NHS workers we rely on to get us through the pandemic.
“Migrants enrich our society and make a net contribution to our economy, but Brexit and other toxic Conservative policies are creating harmful barriers and making people think twice before settling in the UK. There is a danger that due to Westminster’s obsession with reducing migration, Scotland’s working age population will decline and we will face growing problems of staff shortages which will affect us all.
“It is vital that Scotland gets powers over migration so that we can build a tailor-made system that meets our needs and values. Ultimately, the best way to do this is to become an independent country with the full powers necessary to build a fairer system and strengthen our economy. “