Sunday, October 6, 2013
Foreigners will have to prove that they are entitled to be in Britain before they are given access to doctors and hospitals, while foreign students will have to make a “contribution” to the British health service
The measure will form the centerpiece of tough new legislation designed to reduce numbers entering the country and put pressure on illegal immigrants to leave. A senior government source said that it was an attempt to target people who have no right to be in Britain. Restricting access to the National Health Service (NHS) is highly contentious politically. Doctors will be told they have to check that people seeking to register with them are in Britain legally and issue only time-limited “NHS numbers” — the proof of entitlement to free care — to those who do not have a permanent right to be in the country. Separately, students from outside Europe will have to pay a £200 levy before they can access the NHS. Hospitals will be told to step up attempts to pursue “health tourists” for the cost of treatments they receive. The measures will be outlined in the Immigration Bill, which is due to be put before the British Parliament soon. It represents one of the most wide-ranging and ambitious pieces of legislation since the Coalition took office, spanning six Whitehall departments: health, local government, business, and transport, as well as the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. Other elements of the Bill include a ban on councils giving social housing to individuals with no connection to an area, with “penalties” if the rules are not followed; fines of up to £3,000 if landlords do not conduct thorough background checks on their tenants to ensure they have a legal right to live in Britain, and fines of up to £20,000 for every illegal worker employed by unscrupulous businesses; and an end to the farce that sees foreign criminals dodging deportation by appealing using the Human Rights Act. Instead the law will allow immediate deportation and appeals from outside the country unless criminals can show that they face “serious and irreversible harm” in their home countries. The plans are intended to address public concern over the impact of the migration policies of the last Labor government. The Bill is the Coalition’s flagship legislation for 2013 and Conservatives hope that the package of measures will allow them to win back voters who have been tempted to support the UK Independence Party. The foreign students levy will end the current situation which allows free access to the NHS for all students in Britain for more than six months. Currently 300,000 students from outside Europe are studying at British universities. Official projections have suggested that this number will rise to more than 480,000 by 2025.