By Cristina Alonso
London, Jun 11 (efe-epa).- The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of foreign workers in the United Kingdom, especially in key sectors, and raised questions about the government’s post-Brexit migrant policies.
“Right now we feel very supported by the people,” bus driver Jomhs Jaramillo tells Efe.
Born in Ecuador, he has lived in the UK for 24 years, 14 of which he has spent working for Transport for London.
Now he belongs to one of the groups most exposed to Covid-19. At least 29 of his colleagues have died from the disease.
Jomhs underlined the contribution that foreigners have had in the UK by taking on essential jobs, especially since the lockdown came into effect on 23 March.
Four years earlier Brexit came as a “huge” blow to him, despite the fact he has dual nationality, he says.
“We felt as though they wanted to close the door to immigration in the country,” he adds.
Foreign workers make up around 11 percent of the British population — roughly 3.5 million people.
Last year, around 85,000 people migrated to the UK.
Once the Brexit transition is finished at the end of this year, the Conservative Party government of prime minister Boris Johnson aims to make the process more difficult with a points-based system centered on workers’ skill levels.
From 2021, anyone who wants to move to the UK will need an offer of a salary of at least £25,600 ($32,300) or £20,480 in a sector in need of workers, such as construction, engineering and health care.
Ian Goldin, the founding director of the Oxford Martin School and professor of globalization and development, tells Efe the new measures would present “a very big challenge for the labor market. It will slow the growth of Britain”.
“Foreigners are an absolutely vital part of the British economy,” he adds.