U.K. Conservative Party Proposes Requiring Immigrants To Be Tested for TB, HIV, Hepatitis B
The Conservative Party, the main opposition party in the United Kingdom, on Monday proposed immigration guidelines that would require people from non-European Union countries who intend to permanently live in Britain to undergo tests for HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis B, London's Independent reports (Russell/Morris, Independent, 2/15). Under the proposal, people from outside of E.U. countries who plan to settle permanently in the United Kingdom would have to "demonstrate they have an acceptable standard of health," would not be a threat to public health and would not "impose significant costs or demands" on the country's health agency, the National Health Service, according to BBC News. Under the proposed guidelines, all immigrants would have to undergo a general health check, adult immigrants who are not pregnant would have to have a chest X-ray for TB and immigrants ages 16 and older would have to be tested for HIV and hepatitis B. People from outside the European Union who are from a country with high TB incidence and plan on staying in the country for between six months to 12 months also would have to undergo a chest X-ray (BBC News , 2/15). People from non-E.U. countries visiting Britian for less than six months would not have to undergo testing unless they intend to work in health care, child care or teaching, and people under age 16 also would not have to be tested (BBC News , 2/15). Any person testing positive for TB would be denied a visa to the United Kingdom, and people who test positive for other conditions, including HIV and hepatitis B, would be dealt with on a "case-by-case" basis, according to BBC News. The Conservatives plan on introducing the proposal if the party wins the general election that is expected for May 5 (BBC News , 2/15). The Conservatives said their plan would not deny entry to asylum seekers. However, emigres would be required to undergo health checks to ensure that they receive medical treatment and do not spread infectious diseases, according to BBC News (BBC News , 2/15).
Michael Howard, leader of the Conservative Party, on Monday said, "We need to control who is coming to Britain to ensure they are not a public health risk and to protect access to the [national health service]." He added, "It's plain common sense, and it's exactly what they do in New Zealand, Canada and Australia" (Independent, 2/15). Official data show that in 2002 there were four TB cases for every 100,000 people born in the United Kindom, compared with 73 cases for every 100,000 people born in other countries, the Scotsman reports. "I don't think anyone would deny the problem we now have with TB is very significantly caused by people who come from abroad," Howard said, adding, "I don't think a responsible government can stand aside and do nothing in the face of this problem" (Lyons, Scotsman, 2/15). The Conservatives say that about 80% of HIV cases associated with heterosexual transmission reported in the United Kingdom in 2003 occurred in Africa, according to London's Guardian (Wintour/Dodd, Guardian, 2/15).
Labour, Other Reaction
Des Browne, immigration minister for the ruling Labour Party, said his party's five-year immigration plan unveiled last week targets screening for TB, AFP/Turkish Press reports (AFP/Turkish Press, 2/15). "We are implementing our existing powers by targeted health screening for TB in high-risk areas at the entry clearance stage," Browne said, adding, "Those who are diagnosed would then need to seek treatment at home before being allowed to enter the U.K." (Reuters, 2/15). Home Secretary Charles Clarke said, "This is a scurrilous attempt by the [Conservatives] to score cheap political points. The [Conservatives] are purposely mixing two separate issues of immigration and asylum" (Independent, 2/15). Labour Member of Parliament Shaun Woodward, who changed parties from the Conservatives, said, "It is incredible. To say someone who [has] HIV, regardless of their economic skills, is to be debarred from entering Britain borders on the obscene." Lisa Power, head of policy and public affairs for the not-for-profit HIV/AIDS advocacy group Terrence Higgins Trust, said the Conservatives' proposal is a "prejudice-based policy," adding, "This is not an effective policy, and there is no proof that similar measures have worked elsewhere" (Guardian, 2/15).