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Migrant health workers have staged a protest outside Leinster House, calling for family reunification 

Migrant healthcare workers have staged a protest outside Leinster House, urging for family reunification while they provide essential care to the elderly and sick in private nursing homes throughout Ireland.

Approximately 1,000 non-EU workers, primarily nurses from India and the Philippines who are working in roles below their qualifications, were recruited to serve as healthcare assistants (HCAs) in Ireland under a general work permit scheme in June 2021. These dedicated workers, predominantly employed in the private sector, receive an annual salary of €27,000, according to Migrant Nurses Ireland.

However, the minimum salary required to apply for a visa for a spouse is €30,000, and an additional €33,000 is needed to bring one child. The salary threshold increases with additional dependents. This situation has led to the unfortunate separation of healthcare assistants from their spouses and children, which is deemed highly detrimental to their physical and mental well-being.

Migrant Nurses Ireland is calling on the Minister of Employment to grant family status to this group of workers, rendering them eligible for a critical skill permit that would automatically permit them to bring their families to Ireland, as opposed to their current general employment permit.

The group is also advocating for pay parity with HSE (Health Service Executive) workers, which would elevate their income above the visa threshold. Alternatively, they propose the less preferable option of lowering the income threshold for family reunification to their current wage of €27,000.

Furthermore, the group is advocating for the right of spouses to work in Ireland. Many healthcare assistants moved to Ireland with the expectation that they would be able to reunite with their families after a few months, which is currently not possible due to the existing regulations.

Activist and former TD Ruth Coppinger has been instrumental in organizing the protest, as she believes that these workers are being unjustly treated and exploited by the government. She highlights that these healthcare workers, the majority of whom are nurses, are performing crucial tasks far below their qualifications and remuneration, and their presence as healthcare assistants in private nursing homes was a response to the shortage of such workers in the country. Despite their essential contributions, they are currently unable to bring their spouses and children to join them in Ireland, many of whom are also healthcare professionals capable of alleviating the labour shortage in the healthcare sector.

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