THE TORIES sank further into the gutter last week with a new attack on migrants coming to Britain. Liam Fox, Tory health spokesman, said a Tory government would force immigrants to pay to be screened for illnesses like TB and HIV in their own country before they could get travel visas.
They could even ban people from entering Britain. There is no evidence that immigrants are ‘disease carriers’. Dr John Coakley, medical director at Homerton Hospital in east London, said, ‘In the overall context of public health, TB is not a huge issue. ‘It’s mainly about overcrowding and poverty. Most medical people accept that. ‘We should ensure refugees have access to good quality healthcare, rather than dumping them on an estate.’
But the facts don’t stop the Tories’ racist scapegoating. The Tories have got the nerve to blame migrants for the shortages in the NHS. Yet the RCN and Unison say without nurses from abroad the NHS would collapse. An all-party parliamentary group on AIDS said in its report last month, ‘NHS services are overstretched due to prolonged underinvestment. Under the process of NHS modernisation clinicians are facing a situation in which HIV services and prevention are being deprioritised in favour of other serious health problems.’
It went on to say New Labour’s refugee policies of detention centres, dispersal and low benefits or services ‘can negatively impact upon the physical and mental health of asylum seekers with HIV and increase the risk to public health’. It concluded the government ‘should not adopt a policy of mandatory testing upon entry’.
But former New Labour minister Stephen Byers paved the way for the Tories’ announcement. He argued that the government should ban people from healthcare and other services like education and housing if they are illegal immigrants. He demanded the government sets an ‘annual limit’ on people legally entering Britain and ‘anyone visiting the country for weddings or funerals should be required to provide a financial surety’.
In May, Byers spoke about how ‘an unfettered global market can fail the poor’. Now he demands New Labour shuts the door on the poor and vulnerable.
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