Despite the ongoing global crisis, a time that should be about solidarity, the UK Parliament convened on Monday night to vote on tightening immigration in a bill that has already received widespread backlash.

The bill was passed 351-252 with a Tory majority of 80 and will now go to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny. If the immigration bill receives royal assent, it will replace the EU freedom of movement.

Under the new bill, which was first introduced earlier this year by home secretary Priti Patel, only those who pass a salary threshold of £25,600 can immigrate to the country, while those who make less are categorised as “unskilled”. According to Patel, this will create a “firmer, fairer and simpler system” in the United Kingdom.

The new bill will make way for the UK’s new immigration system – set to be introduced in 2021 after the Brexit transition period. Similar to that of Australia, the UK hopes to move towards a point-based immigration system, where certain skills – like speaking English well – can gain immigrants extra points. However, the new bill does not yet set out all the details under the new scheme.

As for NHS staff, Patel loosely acknowledged the part that they play in the country, particularly in the light of the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed tens of thousands of lives in the UK. Patel said that a new one-year visa would be introduced for healthcare staff who have six months or less left to stay in the country. Effectively, they can stay longer but will eventually still need to leave the country.

“Those who clapped [for carers] on Thursday are only too happy to vote through a Bill today that will send a powerful message to those same people – that they are not considered by this government to be skilled workers,” said shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds.

“Are shop workers unskilled? Are refuse collectors? Are local government workers? Are NHS staff? Are care workers? Of course, they are not.”

The bill will put EU citizens looking to migrate to the UK on the same footing as non-EU citizens. However, British people will also no longer have the automatic right to live and work in the 27 member states that make up the European Union.

Many pointed out that under this new system, Priti Patel’s own parents wouldn’t have been permitted to migrate to the UK. Patel’s family emigrated from Uganda in the 1960s and established their own chain of newsagents. This bill would categorise them as “unskilled”.

Aisha Mohamed