LONDON: Britain is expected to offer five-year visas to refugees with skills in UK sectors where there are shortages of workers.
Home Secretary Priti Patel will unveil the plan — which hopes to recover skilled refugees from camps in the Middle East, including Lebanon and Jordan — this week.
In the test of the scheme, some 100 refugees and their families will receive special visas that give them working rights for up to five years.
Beneficiaries will include migrants who have fled war-torn Syria and Gaza, which endured heavy shelling and airstrikes from Israeli forces in May, worsening its displaced population crisis.
To earn a place on the scheme, refugees will be expected to provide proof of a qualification that matches the UK’s shortage occupation list, such as care workers, nurses and IT experts.
“It’s not so much changing the immigration system but helping people who already qualify for the existing immigration system,” a source told The Times of London newspaper.
Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: “Many refugees around the world actually have the skills to get work visas under the mainstream immigration system. But in practice it can be really difficult for skilled refugees to do this because the immigration system is bureaucratic and expensive, and refugees often don’t have good networks. So instead they end up navigating the chaotic asylum system or languishing for years, waiting to be resettled by the UN. The idea of programs like this is to help skilled refugees get over those barriers and get a work visa. This initial pilot is very small, so it will be interesting to see whether it gets scaled up in the future.”
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “A scheme that supports refugees to rebuild their lives in the UK is to be welcomed but this is a tiny drop in the ocean in the provision of safe routes for people fleeing war, terror and oppression.
“If this government is serious about strengthening safe routes to reach the UK for people desperately in need of protection, it needs to be far more ambitious.
“Without a long-term plan to resettle tens of thousands of people in need of safety, this government’s commitment will continue to ring hollow.”
The plan is based on similar provisions offered by the Canadian and Australian governments. The Home Office scheme will be organized with the charity Talent Beyond Boundaries, which is involved in the Australian and Canadian programs.
UK Director of Talent Beyond Boundaries Marina Brizar said: “This program will empower UK businesses to help unlock solutions for forcibly displaced people, simply by recognizing their skills.
“We are grateful to the UK government and our partners who have enthusiastically supported displaced talent mobility. We look forward to assisting displaced people to rebuild their lives with purpose, dignity and safety in the UK.”
Patel said: “The British people have always been generous to refugees. This is a source of great national pride and will never change.
“Part of our firm but fair approach is to strengthen the safe and legal ways in which people can enter the UK. And I can announce that this government will take action to help those displaced by conflict and violence access our global points-based system.
“We will work with the charity Talent Beyond Boundaries and other partners on a pilot project to enable more talented and skilled people who have had to flee their homes, to safely and legally come to the UK and contribute to our country. This country does right by those in need.”
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