But critics say pilot programme does not make up for ‘hateful’ new laws
Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Home Secretary Priti Patel is to launch a new legal route into the UK, aimed at helping to secure a visa for IT professionals and other highly skilled people who have been forced to flee their homes.
The new pilot scheme will see up to 100 people in Jordan and Lebanon receive sponsorship by a UK employer and apply for a visa under the UK’s points-based immigration system. The pilot is being run in partnership with the charity Talent Beyond Boundaries, who already work in Australia and Canada on similar schemes.
The Home Office say it will focus on those working in industries where there are shortages, such as IT and engineering. Applicants will “need to speak English and be able to secure a job offer, but help will be provided to overcome the unique obstacles faced by those fleeing conflict”.
Patel is due to announce details of the pilot on Monday, ahead of the Conservative government’s Nationality and Borders Bill heading to the Commons for its second reading.
The Scottish National Party suggested the Home Secretary was trying to distract from the legislation, which they said would “see people fleeing torture and persecution stripped of their rights and criminalised.”
In her announcement the Home Secretary is expected to tell MPs: “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, including through the UK Resettlement Scheme, which started in February. And I can announce that this government will take action to help those displaced by conflict and violence access our global points-based system.”
She added: “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.”
The SNP’s home affairs spokesperson Stuart McDonald was sceptical of the pilot programme.
“Piloting new safe legal routes is welcome and what the SNP has advocated for – we will look at the details,” he said. “However, while pretending to champion safe legal routes, the hateful anti-refugee bill she is introducing on Monday is designed to clamp down and restrict by far the most successful safe route we have, which is family reunion. Her ‘plan’ for immigration will see refugees stripped of their rights to be joined by family members, forcing many to turn to people smugglers and dangerous routes. So, this is the height of hypocrisy.”
He added: “This is blatantly a pathetic attempt to distract from their appalling and hateful anti-refugee bill which will see people fleeing torture and persecution stripped of their rights and criminalised if they dare to seek sanctuary in the UK. The home secretary plans to rip up the refugee convention and wash her hands of the UK’s responsibilities to those we should be protecting. No pilot project will detract from that.”