Major employers in the Causeway Coast and Glens, including a well-known care home operator which has a facility in Ballymoney, are facing an uncertain future if proposed legislation on immigration goes through parliament, the local council has been told.
Councillors in the Causeway Coast and Glens received a presentation from Mary Kerr and Dr Ken Bishop from the Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership about issues surrounding migration and the help available to councils. After an outline on the work of the body from Dr Bishop, Ms Kerr addressed concerns raised by DUP councillor Sam Cole about the forthcoming Immigration Bill currently before Westminster.
In her response, Mary Kerr said concerns had been raised by a number of employers who feared they might be forced to “relocate” if the changes planned in the new Bill go ahead.
Councillor Cole said: “You talked about the migration bill that is in parliament at the moment. I’ve been told that the Home Office plans to deny work visas to immigrants earning less than £35,000. Are you aware of that and what ramifications will that have for councils in Northern Ireland?”
Dr Ken Bishop said: “We are aware of that and we are working on a detailed response.”
Mary Kerr added: “We have met with groups of employers who are extremely concerned about that. The impact it would have in Northern Ireland, what employers have told us and we have met employers from health and social care, from pharmaceuticals and others, is that they will have to relocate or they will have to close down their care homes or reduce the number of beds because they absolutely cannot meet the conditions that are expected.
“There will be quite a significant impact. One of the things we did with the partnership is that we did get this issue on the agenda in NI and we did have the Home Office over here to meet with employers. We did manage to get nurses put on the temporary shortage occupation list which is something of a short-term solution for nurses. The other industries still remain very concerned about that issue.”
Sam Cole asked: “Who have you been talking to, specifically?”
Mary Kerr replied: “On the pharmaceutical side was ALMAC, who would have been one of the main employers to engage with us. From IT we have had AllState. We have had Four Seasons Health Care, the Macklin Group and others. There have been a number of restaurants that have been involved. I can send the chair the link to the consultation response to the home office.”
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Listed in the consultation document referred to by Ms Kerr are the Macklin Group, operators of a care home in Coleraine and Four Seasons Health Care, the operators of care homes in Limavady, Garvagh and Ballymoney and a host of other businesses from across Northern Ireland.
Mary Kerr also allayed concerns raised by TUV Councillor Sharon McKillop around benefits tourism by immigrants in the Causeway Coast and Glens. Mary said: “There is no evidence that is the case in Northern Ireland.”