Bishop voices concern over post-Brexit immigration rules

Bishop Patrick Lynch

Bishop Patrick Lynch

Source: CCN/ICN

Rt Rev Patrick Lynch SSCC, Bishop for Migrants, Catholic Bishops' Conference has joined charities and human rights groups to express concern over the government's proposed new immigration rules.

The rules mean that people with less qualifications and low-paid workers - such as carers, people in catering or agricultural workers will not be able to come to the UK.

Under a new points based system people wanting to work in the UK must meet a minimum salary threshold, speak good English and have a job offer from an approved sponsor. Top priority will be given to those with "the highest skills and the greatest talents," like scientists, engineers and academics. Employers have until January 1 2021 to meet the requirements.

Nearly every farm worker in the UK currently comes from another country. Farmers say they need at least 70,000 a year to help with picking fruit and vegetables. Under the new rules, only 10,000 will be permitted.

The closure of UK borders to low-skilled workers risks driving vulnerable EU citizens into modern slavery, charities have said.

They warn the ban will lead to a boom in a black market for low-paid workers that will be exploited by criminals and lead to coercion and abuse.

The charities add that it will harm EU citizens already in the country who may not know their legal rights post-Brexit and others lured by a glut of cash-in-hand jobs in restaurants, offices, farms and construction sites, who will risk being brought into the country by traffickers.

Bishop Patrick Lynch said: "Through the work of the Santa Marta Group, we know that one of the most serious challenges concerning modern slavery in England and Wales is the exploitation experienced by seasonal agricultural workers.

"The government's planned immigration changes leave many unanswered questions about how these workers will be protected under the new system and what steps will be taken to prevent traffickers exploiting any labour shortages that arise.

"We urgently need to see more details, particularly around processes for inspecting recruiters, working practices and living conditions.

"Traffickers will seek every opportunity to abuse new immigration policies, so the government has a responsibility to ensure that the proper safeguards are in place.

"I also urge the Catholic community to continue helping identify modern slavery in the agricultural sector, support the Church's initiatives to tackle this grievous crime, and report any concerns to the police."

Tags: Brexit, Patrick Lynch, Immigration, Farm Workers, Santa Marta Group, Patrick Lynch, Fruit Pickers

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