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Priti Patel Has Been Asked To Renew Her Promise That Families of Health Workers Killed By Covid-19 Have The Right To Stay In UK

3 min read

Priti Patel’s promise to give the relatives of foreign frontline healthcare workers who die while working on the coronavirus response indefinite leave to remain in the UK must be renewed, Labour has said.

Shadow immigration minister Holly Lynch has said the offer from the Home Secretary to give dependents of non-EEA doctors, nurses and healthcare staff the right to stay in the country needs to be extended for the entire pandemic and the government must commit to this in writing.

In a letter to immigration minister Kevin Foster sent today Ms Lynch said that so far “no firm assurances have been made” the same rules apply in a second wave of the illness. 

PoliticsHome has asked the Home Office a number of questions on the matter, including if the offer still stands and whether it will cover anyone who dies this winter.

The department did not give a written response but said that in April, the Home Secretary wrote to the Home Affairs Select Committee to say that any dependants will be granted immediate indefinite leave to remain, without a requirement to pay a fee. It also said there is no end date on the scheme.

The Home Office also provided an email address for any members of the public who had any questions on the matter: UKVINHSteam@homeoffice.gov.uk.

Lynch wrote in her letter that migrant health workers, both in the NHS and independent sector, need to know what their family's rights would be in the worst case scenario.

“The programme grants family members of healthcare workers indefinite leave to remain in the UK if the worker sadly passes away as a result of Covid-19.

“I’m sure you will agree that is the least people who have made the ultimate sacrifice deserve.

“As a result, I would be grateful if you can confirm that the scheme will continue to operate throughout the lockdown and indeed for the course of this coronavirus crisis.

“At present, no firm assurances have been made," she said. 

The secretary of state’s letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee sent on April 29 said: “We hope the number of people who find themselves in this position is very small and our thoughts go out to the families and friends of all medical professionals who have passed away fighting to keep us safe.

“We continue to monitor the situation carefully and consider our response. I can confirm that any dependants in this very sad position will be granted immediate indefinite leave to remain, without a requirement to pay a fee.”

In May, Patel said again that the Home Office is extending the offer of indefinite leave to remain, free of charge, to the families and dependants of NHS support staff and social care workers who die as result of contracting coronavirus.

PoliticsHome also asked the HomeOffice how many dependents have been granted indefinite leave to remain so far if their relative working in healthcare had passed away from coronavirus. This information was not readily available.

Ms Lynch said: “Brave NHS staff and care workers have been heroes of this Covid crisis. They have been at the frontline of the battle and sadly too many have paid the ultimate price.  

“Government must provide reassurance to families that should their loved ones be tragically taken while fighting this virus, they will be allowed to stay in the UK. It’s the very least that they deserve.”

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