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Filipino migrants set to challenge UK policies on care workers

Published on 30/09/2009

Kanlungan, an alliance of Filipino migrant organisations in the United Kingdom, is set to file a legal challenge at the British High Court to obtain a definitive judicial ruling on the eligibility of overseas migrant workers applying for permanent settlement after five years of continuous stay in the UK.

The UK Border Agency has been refusing applications for indefinite leave to remain by senior care workers on the basis that there is a gap in their employment and stay in the UK. Benny Clutario, chair of Kanlungan, pointed out that the UK Border Agency should not be refusing these applications because the gaps were a direct result of retrospective changes in immigration rules between 2006 and 2008, and not because of any violation of immigration laws by migrant workers.

Kanlungan has as member organisations Bahay Kubo Housing Association, Lingap, Philippine Theatre UK, Kadamay UK and Migrante UK. It is seeking a judicial review on behalf of thousands of overseas senior care workers who have gaps in their visas. A judicial review is a type of court proceeding in the UK judicial system in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.

In 2006, the UK government changed the requirement for applying for permanent settlement from four years to five years and applied this retrospectively to all migrants. Thousands of senior care workers were caught by this change and had to re-apply for an extension of their work permit and visa for at least another year.

In 2007, the UK government imposed new requirements for renewals of work permits and visas for senior care workers, requiring them to have skills and qualifications at National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 3 which is roughly equivalent to a university degree and a minimum salary of 7.02 GBP per hour. As a result, over 3,500 work permits of senior care workers were not renewed.

The new rules were challenged by Kanlungan and other migrant organisations and trade unions in Britain. So in 2008, the UK Border Agency issued transitional measures. The following concessions were granted:

Senior care workers who had their work permits approved prior to 31
December 2003, and who still had the same employer would be granted a visa extension for 12 months provided they had not left the United Kingdom.  The skills criteria and the required salary of 7.02 GBP would be waived.

Those who had arrived in the UK after 31 December 2003, would only have the skills criteria waived. Work permit renewals with the same employer or with a new employer would still require that the employer pay them 7.02 GBP per hour.

In March 2008, the government gave further concessions for those who had lost
their jobs, their work permits and their leave to remain due to the rule changes.
They issued guidelines allowing them to apply for a new work permit, with
employers paying 7.02 GBP per hour, as long as the application was made within six months of the date they lost their right to remain in the UK.

Many senior care workers, with gaps in their visas within their five years of stay in the UK, have tried to apply for indefinite leave to remain. However, they have been refused by the Home Office and were told that they should fill the gaps in their visas and re-apply when these gaps have been completed. Then again, there are some who until now have not managed to get new employers willing to pay them 7.02 GBP an hour and who are therefore, now here as undocumented migrants.

Clutario said: "When migrants lose their visas, this does not automatically result in all these workers leaving the country. It almost certainly translates into a significant number of workers staying in the UK as undocumented migrants. Sadly, they become undocumented not by choice but because of misguided policies and mismanaged immigration."

Kanlungan called on senior care workers who have experienced gaps in their visas due to changes in immigration rules to come forward and provide evidence. "The more senior carers involved in this legal action, the better the chance for success," Clutario stressed.

Jamima Fagt / MRN/ Expatica

Republished with permission from the Migrant Rights Network