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UK faces care worker crisis as new VISA rules deter Zimbabwean migrants

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By Zimbabwe Mail


LONDON – Britain could face a further shortage of care workers as migrants who had been ready to move to the UK for jobs in the sector cancel their plans because of new visa rules that prevent them from bringing family.

Migrating to the UK for a role as a care worker had been Tanyaradzwa Makwiranzou’s goal since opportunities opened following the Covid-19 pandemic.

After completing a nurse aide course, Makwiranzou last year obtained the necessary documents in preparation to move from Zimbabwe to the UK, including police clearance and an English test.

But his investment of time and more than £1,000 was laid to waste on 11 March this year when the UK brought in visa rules that mean care workers are unable to bring dependants when they migrate.

The measures, announced by the Government in December 2023, are intended to reduce the number of migrants coming through the care visa route and to combat abuse and manipulation of the immigration system.

Makwiranzou, who lives in the capital Harare with his wife and 14-month-old son, said it was heartbreaking.

“The new restrictions defeat the whole purpose of migration. I wanted to move to the UK for the sake of my child. I want him to live in a better society,” he tells i.

“I cannot leave my family behind.”

The NHS and wider UK health system has been severely understaffed since before the pandemic.

Many Zimbabweans have seized the opportunity to escape their country’s numerous problems, from high inflation, a currency crisis and deteriorating healthcare to stagnant salaries, a high unemployment rate and shortages of basic commodities.

Institutions that offer nurse aide training in Zimbabwe, including the Red Cross and St John Ambulance, had recorded an increase in numbers of people studying the course, including nurses and other professionals such as teachers and bank workers.

In the year ending September 2023, 21,130 Zimbabweans were issued health and care work visas, the third highest number of any nationality after Nigeria and India, according to the Home Office.

But experts and care workers associations say the restrictions imposed by the British Government discourage care workers from working in the UK and are likely to fuel further staff shortages.

Family is what motivates many people to work and is central to their dreams and ambitions, says Yotamu Mlauzi Chagwada, president of the Nurse Aide Association of Zimbabwe Trust, which represents care workers in the country.

“Without family we are nothing. Care workers are creating opportunities for their families. I do not see anyone working with their family left behind,” he tells i.

“Many care workers will opt for other countries that allow them to bring their families. Family is their first priority.”

He warns the UK will face further staff shortages as a result.

“There is nothing (without) care workers bringing their family to the UK. Barring them leads to care worker shortages,” he says.

The decision by the Government to bar migrant workers from being accompanied by their spouses is an affront to the rights and dignity of migrant workers, adds Michael Kandukutu, a labour migration expert at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, an umbrella body representing workers in the country.

“Migration is a human right,” he says, “countries must strive to improve the decent working conditions for everyone.”

Audrey Paidamoyo Chidziya, a trained nurse aide from Zimbabwe’s third largest city of Mutare, says that if an opportunity to move to the UK comes she will take it, but leaving her family behind will be painful.

“It is tough,” says the 30-year-old mother of two girls, who obtained necessary documents last year to migrate to the UK.

She says if she gets a job offer in another developed country she will not move to the UK.

Makwiranzou has already started the process of moving to Australia instead.

“I no longer see the UK as a favourable destination. I have accepted that I wasted my money in getting all the paperwork,” he says.