Articles

Proposal may exclude immigrants from accessing NHS

In Health industry on January 17, 2009 by Danielle Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

I was disturbed by a piece on the BBC News website that describes a significant change to the citizenship process.  A change that makes it more arduous, costly, and time-consuming for already cash-strapped immigrants to naturalise.

Jacqui Smith, the British Home Secretary, has proposed to add 1 to 3 years on to the current 5 year period (the time it takes for a migrant to become a permanent resident) to create a new, probationary period.  During this time, it is proposed that the immigrant must ‘prove’ their worth to the United Kingdom.

As if this were not provocative enough, the new plan may include repealing some of the rights that are currently granted to migrants during the probationary period.  It is possible that migrants’ access to the NHS could be revoked:

We don’t know at this stage whether or not that will include access to some or all of the NHS – the Department of Health is separately reviewing foreign nationals’ entitlement to the service.

I have a question.  During this proposed probationary period, in which the migrants must prove their worth, are they exused from paying National insurance (tax that goes to fund the NHS)?  The reason I ask is this: it does not make sense, to me, that migrants would have to pay for something they can neither access nor benefit from.  Let us also remember that, currently, migrants are generally not entitled to unemployment benefits and, of course, cannot vote in national elections (or at least these are my visa restrictions).

Perhaps the British government could use the carrot rather than the stick to encourage migrants to integrate with society.  After all, most of us are  doing the dirty work (I consider myself lucky to only have to clean up after myself), and paying exorbitant administration fees for our visas as well as a full slate of taxes.    I should mention that visa applications are already very thorough, asking about bank balances, criminal records, education, age, salary, and languages spoken.  The following reads as xenophobic to me:

There is some anger and a perception that newcomers have become entitled to benefits in society without having first earned their way. These reforms are directly targeted at those fears.

Please, could somebody explain to me how immigrants have not “earned their way” by jumping through all the existing hoops that are currently set up in order to live and work in Britain?  And why must we forfeit the right to access  good quality healthcare during the naturalisation process?

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