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Health and care worker visas almost doubled in 2023

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Britain almost doubled the number of visas awarded to foreign migrants coming to work in the health and care sector last year, government data showed, adding to pressure on prime minister Rishi Sunak over immigration ahead of the next general election.

Immigration is one of the top three concerns for voters as the country gears up for an election expected later this year. Trailing the opposition Labour party in the polls, Sunak has vowed to bring it down.

But data released on Thursday by Home Office was the latest set of statistics to show the scale of the challenge he faces.

Britain granted 337,240 work visas in 2023, 26 per cent higher than in 2022, with the rise largely driven by those coming to the country to work in the care home sector.

That follows figures released in November which showed annual net migration to the UK hit a record 745,000 in 2022 and has stayed high since.

Visas under the ‘Skilled Worker – Health and Care’ route almost doubled, Thursday’s data showed, rising by 91 per cent to 146,477 last year.

Many of these workers also brought dependants, with the health and care bracket accounting for 73 per cent of the 279,131 visas given to the family members of workers. This was an 80 per cent jump in numbers of dependants compared to 2022.

As part of his effort to bring numbers down, Sunak’s government announced stricter visa rules late last year, including higher salary thresholds and restrictions on bringing in family members.

From March 11, care workers will no longer be permitted to bring dependants, a move criticised by businesses and trade unions over worries about the impact on a sector that has faced labour shortages.

Britain had opened up visas to international care workers from February 2022 in an effort to fill vacancies.

Sunak is also trying to deter illegal migration to Britain. The data published on Thursday showed that irregular arrivals, mostly via small boats from France, were down 33 per cent to 36,704 in 2023.

(Reuters)

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