The United Kingdom (UK) announced on Monday that it has started the implementation of the dependents’ ban on migrants, care givers and health workers.

This move will affect hundreds of migrant Nigerian health workers already in the UK and many more aiming to go there on the back of a huge migration trend popularly called “japa”. This follows on a downturn in the Nigerian economy over the years.

Diaspora remittances chalked up to over $20 billion in 2023 and the growing hordes of migrant health care workers contribute significantly to the numbers.

The UK Home Office said in a post on its X handle on Monday that the move is part of plans to cut migration.

“From today, care workers entering the UK on health and care worker visas can no longer bring dependents.

“This is part of our plan to deliver the biggest ever cut in migration.”.

Meanwhile, total of 18,143 care workers and home carers left Nigeria to seek employment in the United Kingdom in 2023, a new report by the British Government has revealed.

The updated immigration data reveals that Nigeria joined India and Zimbabwe as the non-EU countries with the most care workers and home carers in the UK, representing 58% of all approved visas for the occupation.

The dependents ban on migrant care givers and health workers was announced in December, with Social Care Minister, Helen Whately saying while she is “grateful” for the contribution of overseas care workers, she is also “clear that immigration is not the long term answer to our social care needs”.

With the UK government keen to crack down on the net migration which has risen to record levels, restrictions have been introduced, including on family members accompanying foreign students for non research post graduate courses.

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After a drop during the COVID pandemic, net migration has been steadily on the rise and is reportedly expected to hit a record high this year. Official figures published in November 2022 estimated net migration to June 2022 at just over 500,000.

Under the new proposals, only students on post graduate courses designated as research programmes will be able to bring dependents to the UK while they study. Overseas students will be prevented from switching “out of the student route into the work routes” before their studies have been completed.

There will also be improved “and more enforcement activity” and a clamp down on “unscrupulous agents” using education as a cover for immigration, according to a government statement.

Some 136,000 visas were issued to dependents of international students last year- up eight fold from the 16,000 in 2019, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said in a written statement to parliament.

Between 2022 and 2023, the care worker occupation in the UK experienced a huge leap in the workforce. As of 2022, when foreign care workers and home carers had just become eligible for the “Skilled Worker Health and Care” visa after a recommendation by the Migration Advisory Committee, there were only 19,864 visas granted to practice.

However, the number skyrocketed 349 percent in one year, and by 2023 the UK had granted about 90,000 work visas to care workers and home carers. In 12 months, it had seen about 70,000 new applications flood in.

Recent figures show that the “Skilled Worker Health and Care” visas granted almost doubled in 2023, representing a 91 percent increase to 146,477, compared with the previous year.
Care workers and home carers accounted for the vast majority of the increases, accounting for 89,236 grans in 2023.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is one of the countries deemed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to have a critical shortage of health workers. In recent years, nationals of the Western African state had gained popularity, leaving footprints worldwide, following an exodus of skilled workers popularly called “japa” a Yoruba indigenous word, meaning “escape”.

Nigeria’s care giving industry, still at its infant stage and largely unregulated, was estimated to be worth $9 billion in 2019 and projected to tripple by 2021, according to Chika Mudubuko, founder of Greymate Care- a startup using tech to disrupt the country’s home care industry by connecting clients with vetted care givers, BusinessDay reports.

However, in a situation where labour shortages in prospering economies co-exist with unemployment in less fortunate ones, Nigeria has been hit hard by a health care workforce deficit fuelled by post pandemic policies.