Indian doctors again clash with British government

August 7th, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Aug 7 (IANS) Indian doctors are once again suing the British government, this time accusing it of violating the spirit of a four-month-old court order by seeking to deny thousands the opportunity to live and work in Britain. The doctors, who won a landmark judgment in their favour April 8, say the British home ministry subsequently refused to withdraw an earlier rule that they say unfairly disadvantages doctors from India and other countries currently working in Britain.

The rule concerns the number of years a person needs to have lived in Britain before qualifying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) - the first stage to full citizenship.

The home ministry raised the minimum requirement from four to five years in April 2006, but refused to withdraw this change while issuing policy guidance in July this year - a move that a spokesman for the doctors termed as “unfair and unlawful”.

“Once again the Home Office has been requested to abide to the rule of law, and once again it seems inevitable that the law of the country needs to be enforced onto an obsessed Immigration Ministry which is going to waste the tax-payers’ money to further defend such unfair and unlawful policies,” said Amit Kapadia, executive director of the HSMP Forum.

In April this year, the Forum won a high-profile case in favour of doctors who had been granted Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP) visas but suddenly found themselves unable to work in Britain because of changes made to the visa criteria.

Although the judgment concerned changes made in November 2006, the Forum says the government is violating the spirit of the ruling.

“The judgment delivered a complete package to bring relief to doctors. This action by the Home Office threatens the livelihood of a very large number of doctors,” Kapadia told IANS.

“Migrants and their families who applied for indefinite leave to remain after four years - as it was initially promised by the UK government to entice them to come to Britain to contribute to UK economy - are now issued with refusal letters and are being asked to leave the country,” the Forum said.

It said the difference of a year in qualifying for indefinite leave was causing migrants hardship and upsetting their plans.

Many migrants’ children - faced with the prospect of having to pay high university fees that are charged international students - have abandoned studies, changed career plans or taken a year off studies.

Kapadia said the government has until mid-August to reply to a legal notice served by the Forum.

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