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NON-EU immigrants will be given the same chances as EU citizens to work in a post-Brexit Britain under a Labour government, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said today.
In a keynote address in Parliament, she unveiled the plan to reform the immigration system by implementing a flexible work visa scheme that would not favour EU citizens.
She said that non-EU migrants, including those from the Commonwealth, are currently treated as “second-class” under the government’s “inhumane, two-tier” system that requires them to meet minimum income targets to bring over family and restrict their own travel, while EU citizens are not subject to such rules.
Labour’s visa scheme proposal intends to put the economy first by allowing employers to apply for visas for workers abroad, but bosses would have to show they could not recruit and train workers living here first.
Ms Abbott said that higher-skilled applicants will not be given preference because visas will be granted on basis of need, such as filling more than 100,000 NHS vacancies and the shortage of care workers.
She said: “A fully qualified doctor from Pakistan will be treated just like a fully qualified doctor from Poland, and vice versa.
“The same is true of how we will allocate work visas, and the rights that will be attached to them.”
She attacked the Tories for aiming to bring net immigration below their “meaningless and arbitrary target” of 100,000 a year, which was dismissed as a fantasy figure today by former permanent Home Office secretary Sir David Normington.
On the subject of the Windrush scandal, Ms Abbott strongly condemned the government for its hostile environment for migrants that resulted in the detention and deportation of Commonwealth-born British citizens.
She said that the government treats “migrants as scapegoats” while resorting to “deporting them now and letting them appeal later.”
Women for Refugee Women grassroots director Marchu Girma asked her during the Q&A session what Labour would do to make sure victims of trafficking, exploitation, and abuse can report these crimes without fear of being detained and deported.
Ms Abbott said that Labour would close down women’s immigration removal centre Yarl’s Wood and use the £10 million it costs to run every year to invest in services for trafficked and abused women.
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