UNISON shame government over plan for huge rise in migrant visa fees

Unions condemn plan to hike migrant visa costs to pay for public sector pay rise

The UK’s largest union UNISON has shamed the government over plans to hike visa fees for migrants which the Tories claimed would fund a public sector pay increase.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea slammed the plan, saying it ‘punished’ migrant workers, forcing them to pay for the ‘failure of this government’.

It came after Rishi Sunak announced a 5% – 7% pay offer for public sector workers, which the government said would be funded by increasing the charges to migrants for visa applications and NHS access.

The announcement was condemned by unions and charities as ‘divisive’ and ‘deeply unfair’, who said it will push thousands more people into poverty and continues the divisive policies of this government.

In 2014, the Immigration Health Surcharge was brought in by the then home secretary Theresa May, who wasn’t shy to admit that her aim in the role was to create a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants. It is an extra charge migrants and their families have to make in addition to their taxes.

The government are looking to increase the surcharge from £624 to an eye-watering £1,035 a year per person. This represents a huge 417% increase over the past five years.

Work visas are also set to increase by 15% and the cost of other visas could rise by 20%.

Since it was introduction, UNISON has campaigned to abolish the surcharge and to reduce visa fees for migrants. Christina McAnea said the union has heard first-hand from members about the devastating impact high visa costs are having already.

“We heard distressing cases of UNISON members working on the pandemic front line going without food so they could feed their children after visa renewals left them with no money.

“Visa fees don’t just hit bank balances – it leaves families destitute.”

She added: “Migrant workers make an immense contribution to public services day in, day out through their hard work and tax contributions, just like other UNISON members.

“They should be made to feel welcome and treated with respect, not punished for the failure of this government to fund public services properly.”

The British Medical Association also condemned the increased charges as ‘shameful’. BMA chair of council Prof Philip Banfield said it was ‘especially insulting’ to use the fee increase to fund what he blasted as an inadequate pay offer.

“The Government are pitting the public against each other, targeting one group to fund below-inflation offers for another when this country needs them desperately to help get the NHS back on its feet,” said Banfield.

“I’m afraid that doctors won’t stand by while the Government scapegoats immigrants for their own mismanagement of the NHS.”

Doctors rejected the sub-inflation pay offer and continue their strike action this week, with consultants also set to strike for two days on 20 and 21 July.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the hike was ‘simply unaffordable’ and will, ‘force thousands further into poverty during a cost of living crisis, or out of the country.’

(Photo credit: Sky News / Youtube)

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust logo
Comments are closed.