Migrant healthcare workers are asking for their citizenship applications to be prioritised through #fasttrackcitizenship, which seems to be the very least we can do.
As anyone watching the news knows, the Irish healthcare system is on its knees, if it wasn’t already. The coronavirus is wiping out thousands of healthcare workers across the country who are either sick with the virus or have come into close contact with someone who is.
Community healthcare staff are being called in to cover shifts and help keep wards and hospitals open, while others enter the tenth month of long shifts tending to too many patients in restrictive and uncomfortable PPE gear.
Their heroism deserves praise, thanks and citizenship.
Migrant healthcare workers in Ireland
According to a WHO study, 36.1% of Ireland’s doctors in 2014 were foreign-trained with 51.2% of doctors practising surgery in Ireland being international medical graduates. 49% of new nursing and midwifery registrants in Ireland in 2019 were from outside the EU, according to Migrant Nurses Ireland. With an exodus of Irish-trained healthcare workers to UK and further afield for better facilities and better pay, Ireland’s healthcare system is indebted (and heavily reliant) on this migrant workforce.
In Ireland, anyone applying for Irish citizenship is required to have lived in the country for five years to be eligible. However, this period does not include time spent in direct provision or on a student visa, unlike some other EU countries. Once eligible, applicants can then wait upwards of two to four years for their citizenship to be granted. The Irish Times reports that more than 5,300 people are waiting for more than two years for their citizenship and a further 3,202 were waiting between 18 and 24 months.
Fast-tracking the process
Some European countries such as France and Portugal already agreeing to speed up the citizen application process for their doctors, nurses and healthcare workers. France’s frontline “pandemic citizenship” plan not only includes migrants working in hospitals, but also bin collectors, cashiers and cleaners, recognising the mammoth effort undertaken to keep the country running under this truly unprecedented time.
Ireland's carers are now asking for the same. They have taken to Twitter to voice their frustration at application delays and demand that their applications be prioritised.
When got the diagnosis of COVID-19, the only thought I had was what happens to my 2 young kids if I got sick. If the state doesn’t think I deserve structured training and #citizenship after 6yrs of hardwork, will they look after my family
— Junaid (@Jkhan_Dr) January 9, 2021
We pay Irish taxes, we sing Irish songs, we respect Irish laws and we drink Irish pints
We treat Irish patients and teach Irish students
The immigration laws are already in place, they just need to be followed
— Mr Divago™ (@DivagoTM) January 10, 2021
Healthcare workers are risking their lives and the lives of their families for Ireland. They deserve to be treated better.
We need to support them as they’re supporting us in these tough times.
Let’s do it for them. #fastTrackCitizenship pic.twitter.com/YjRLiwLDKQ
— Mohsin Kamal (@mohsinkamal169) January 9, 2021
People around Ireland who have been lying on ventilators after risking their lives for us when they get better will have to go scrabbling around looking for Garda stamps etc to allow them to stay here and continue to work for us. This is totally wrong. #fastTrackCitizenship now
— Anthony O'Connor (@Antcon7062) January 9, 2021
#fastTrackCitizenship for Non EU Healthcare workers ,not only because they deserve it for the outstanding work they have done and still doing in most trying circumstances but also because this is the least Irish government can do for them. Its the need of the hour. https://t.co/v8STFCY8rj
— Muzammil Tahir (@docmuzi) January 9, 2021
Citizenship would not only give them opportunities to progress their career and training, it would also offer stability for them and their families. Ireland needs these workers to stay here and keep our health system running, but how can we expect that when they can't even officially call our little isle home after years of dedication and work.
A petition has also been set up by Train Us for Ireland, a migrant healthcare worker advocacy group, which you can sign here. Rewarding their heroism with citizenship appears to be the very minimum we can do.
Featured image via Train Us for Ireland petition
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