The new Home Secretary should move ‘quickly and decisively’ to end the scandal of scam visas, particularly in the care sector where abuse of the system is ‘rife’.
Experts in migration and visa law are calling on James Cleverly to put measures in place which will make it harder for unscrupulous agents working overseas and sometimes in cahoots with British firms, to gain visas for people for jobs in the UK that don’t exist. Overseas workers, often from disadvantaged communities, are commonly charged up to £25,000 for UK work visas, frequently in the care sector. When the migrants arrive in the UK they are told there is no work for them, or the job their visa allows them to do no longer exists.
Yash Dubal of A Y & J Solicitors in London, says more stringent checks on businesses applying for sponsor licences will help solve the problem.
He explained: “I recently had to advise a young man who had paid a network of agents £25,000 in India in order to secure a care worker visa, which is illegal. Having used his life savings he arrived in the UK and was told by the company that was supposed to be employing him that they could no longer give him work. He was left destitute and had to rely on family members in the UK to survive. This is a common occurrence and is a form of human trafficking. Around the same time I was also approached by a care company which held around 50 sponsor licences. Their accounts clearly showed that they were nowhere near commercially active enough to sustain that number of employees, which suggests the possibility that something untoward was happening. From speaking to people within the legal and care industry it is evident that this type of visa abuse is rife.”
In February 2022 the government placed care workers in the shortage occupation list, which made it much easier for overseas workers to get care worker visas by lowering the criteria for application and the salary requirement.
Mr Dubal continued: “The requirements for gaining care worker visas are now so low the system can be easily gamed. James Cleverly should act quickly and decisively to stop this so no more people can be exploited.”
Several similar cases have come to light recently. Last year an Observer investigation uncovered a network of agencies supplying workers to care homes and homecare agencies in Britain that charged recruitment fees to candidates. By law, agents cannot charge a fee for finding or trying to find a candidate work. The practice of charging recruitment fees, previously exposed in the UAE and Qatar, is considered a human rights abuse that leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation.
Workers from India, the Philippines, Ghana and Zimbabwe were among those charged for their recruitment, with fees ranging from £3,000 to £18,000. Victims described how agents had deducted money from their salaries and withheld their passport or residence permit until they repaid the sum owed.
Earlier this year five people suspected of recruiting and exploiting vulnerable Indian students who worked in care homes across north Wales were handed slavery and trafficking risk orders (STRO).
There have also been several reports in Indian media of migrants on route to the UK with suspicious visas who admit on questioning to using fake documents provided by agents to gain the necessary paperwork.