As a new pay threshold for migrants is announced, Show Racism the Red Card reflects on the impact of many months of negative press and misinformation about immigration.
"We must ensure that a balanced and accurate picture of the impacts of immigration is made available to the public in an accessible way; enabling communities to develop informed opinions about immigration and those often tasked with baring responsibility for the current distorted image - migrants themselves."
Spokesperson, Show Racism the Red Card
Migrant workers will need to earn at least £35,000 to qualify for settlement in the UK, says the Home Office.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the change - from April 2016 - would help cut the number of non-Europeans and their dependants granted settlement each year from 60,000 to 20,000.
Tellingly, these are the opening two lines from the BBC’s report into the Home Office announcement of a new pay threshold for migrants. The focus is immediately placed on the current 60,000 non EU migrants who travel to Britain to live and work each year ('bad') and the anticipated benefit that the new legislation will cut this figure to 20,000 per year ('good').
In the opinion of Show Racism the Red Card, this latest move to cut immigration figures appears to be almost entirely self-fulfilling; if the complex issue of immigration is reported as simplistically as possible, with almost universal negativity for long enough, it could become the sole motivator for changes in legislation which appear not only to be unfair, but also potentially damaging to the economy.
The Healthcare sector is one area that many are already worried will be negatively impacted by the changes, and it is no coincidence that this is also an area where public concern about the pressure on services as a consequence of immigration is high.
Some 66,000 (c.10%) of the 665,000 nurses currently employed within the NHS come from outside of the EU (Nursing & Midwifery Council). Many have been specifically recruited by NHS Trusts to manage specific shortages within the health service.
Show Racism the Red Card echoes the concerns of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) and believe that the obsession with cutting numbers could have a detrimental impact on key services.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: "The immigration rules will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services.
"At a time when demand is increasing, the UK is perversely making it harder to employ staff from overseas."
Dr Carter also stressed that most nurses earn "nowhere near" £35,000, with most on salaries of between £21,000 and £28,000 a year – a figure inline with average wages in the UK which are considered to be c. £26,000 per year.
We are now facing a situation where those nurses and healthcare workers from outside of the EU, who have been proactively and specifically recruited to manage shortages within existing provision, are now required to earn disproportionately more in order to ‘justify’ their residence in the UK. This despite contributions made to the economy in the form of taxation and local spending.
As an organisation, Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) has become increasingly concerned with the negative rhetoric espoused by many media outlets and some politicians, which paints immigration as a problem only and fails to recognise the many positive economic and social benefits.
A recent SRtRC study which captured the attitudes of almost 6,000 young people in England about their perceptions of Britain revealed misconceptions about levels of migration and worrying attitudes towards migrants and other minority groups.
It would be devastating if the impact of eye-catching but poorly-evidenced headlines surrounding the drain on resources caused by so-called ‘health tourism’ had the indirect consequence of weakening the National Health Service instead of making it more robust.
We must ensure that a balanced and accurate picture of the impacts of immigration is made available to the public in an accessible way; enabling communities to develop informed opinions about immigration and those often tasked with baring responsibility for the current distorted image - migrants themselves.
Continuing to promote a myopic, ‘numbers only’ view of immigration could have serious consequences for British society, a point neatly exemplified by Dr Mark Porter of the British Medical Association:
“We were told immigrants are filling up our GP surgeries and our hospitals.”
"Well they are. They're called doctors. And nurses. And porters and cleaners and clinical scientists. And without them, the NHS would be on its knees."