Doctors of Indian origin in the United Kingdom were preparing to file an appeal on Saturday, a day after a high court in London refused to quash an immigration law that requires doctors from outside the European Union to have a work permit to train in Britain.
The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), which called the law discriminatory and against non-EU doctors, lost a bitter, seven-month-old battle in the high court when Justice Stanley Burton refused their review petition on Friday.
If the BAPIO loses the appeal, nearly 16,000 international doctors in the UK, out of which 80 per cent are of Indian origin, will have to leave the country in search for jobs elsewhere.
The immigration law passed in July last year has already compelled almost 8,000 doctors, who had completed the Professional and Linguistics Assessments Board (PLAB) test and were looking for trainee jobs, to return since July 2006. Among these, over 70 per cent were from India.
The ones who are hanging on are losing hope. Dr Imran Yousaf, a co-petitioner of Pakistani-origin, committed suicide a few days before the high court quashed their review petition on Friday. His colleagues said he had been unable to bear the stress.
Last year, a survey had revealed that 120-odd doctors worked at cash tills in stores, as waiters and some even lined up at temples and gurdwaras for free meals. Some were hanging on, counting the days left of their two-year visas.
For some, the high court order was their last hope. A doctor from Kerala who did his MD in cardiology from AIIMS, New Delhi, and his MRCP in London told HT: “I hope we get relief in the high court. I mortgaged my family’s land and pawned my mother’s jewellery to come here. But now I cannot get trainee jobs and my visa is about to expire.”
The 32-year-old doctor didn’t want to be named because of the “embarrassment it would cause his family back home”. He has been working as a valet at a car service station in East London. Next door is a hospital he dreams of getting into. He earns £10 for every car that is serviced.
Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of BAPIO, while confirming that an appeal would be filed, told the Hindustan Times: “We are consulting our solicitors and barristers. We will go to the Court of Appeals because we feel our objections to the immigration rules effective from July last year were not given due consideration — in the high court.”
Dr Mehta said India must press the government here as its nationals were being treated as second-class citizens. “India is the main country in the Commonwealth but its nationals are being discriminated against… They wouldn’t dare do this to American citizens,” he added.