Foreign medics forced to wait amid UK delay in visa process

Foreign medics forced to wait amid UK delay in visa process
Paramedics unload a patient from an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in east London on January 8, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 09 January 2021

Foreign medics forced to wait amid UK delay in visa process

Foreign medics forced to wait amid UK delay in visa process
  • Home Office accused of incompetence with qualified asylum seekers
  • Migrants are left idle as COVID-19 spreads

LONDON: The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is struggling to treat people or find enough staff amid a resurgence of COVID-19, yet many foreign medics across the country have been left unable to help due to immigration rules.
A number of international health care workers are waiting for biometric residence permits (BRPs) from the UK Home Office, with some having waited months to conclude a process that should take seven to 10 days. 
Delays in granting asylum to other qualified professionals, meanwhile, has seen medical practitioners waiting for over a year to be given permission to work — which normally happens after 12 months for key workers, including all medics.
“In normal times it’s terribly frustrating for qualified health professionals who are stuck in the asylum system for months on end, banned from working and unable to use their valuable skills to support the NHS,” Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, told The Independent newspaper. “During a global pandemic, it’s a tragedy.”
Mo’men, a Jordanian surgeon with over a decade of experience, is still waiting for approval to work despite being granted a UK visa on Oct. 7 last year. 
He had been told to expect to collect his BRP two weeks after the visa was granted. “I could be working on the front line right now, but I’ve spent more than two months doing nothing,” he said.
“It’s been 10 weeks; I didn’t expect it to take this long,” the 35-year-old added. “I’ve had no reply from the Home Office about reasons for the delay.”
Walid, a Palestinian nurse who grew up in Lebanon, claimed asylum in the UK in October 2019 but is still waiting for it to be granted.
He too applied to help the NHS deal with COVID-19 late last year, and has been offered a position, but has heard nothing from the Home Office despite being eligible to work.
“This is really frustrating. I worked in an intensive care unit for six years. I have a lot of experience. I can work right now. I am ready,” he said.
“I’ve been learning medical English for six months and I’ve passed everything. It feels like a waste. I’m qualified. I feel like I’m wasting my life,” he added.
“The NHS needs more people, but the Home Office doesn’t care. They just see us as refugees and asylum seekers.”
A Syrian doctor who did not wish to be identified, and worked on wards in the city of Aleppo during the war in his country, has also failed to receive a definitive response from the Home Office despite claiming asylum in July 2020.
“I spent a lot of time helping doctors in surgical emergencies because there was a lot of pressure on them dealing with the effects of the war. After years of war, we were used to seeing this kind of thing,” he said.
“I know I could be helping the UK right now to deal with this crisis. But I’m stuck and can’t do anything.”
The situation in the NHS has become so dire, with rising cases and fatalities, that hospital leaders have asked staff to work extra shifts despite many reporting fatigue, stress and anxiety at the workload and conditions they already face. Others have asked retired practitioners to return to work and assist.
Dr. Dolin Bhagawati, a senior figure at Doctors’ Association UK and an experienced neurosurgeon, called on the state to offer indefinite leave to remain in the country for all international NHS workers, carers and dependents.
“The UK is crying out for all the trained staff we have available, even calling up retired NHS workers and students,” he said.
“By not doing all it can to allow foreign doctors with valid visas to work as soon as possible, the Home Office is failing to do its part in a nationwide effort to fight this virus.”
Liberal Democrat politician Christine Jardine said: “Home Office intransigence and incompetence is now undermining the fantastic work being done by so many people under such stressful circumstances in our NHS and care sectors.  
“It’s bad enough that they continue to ignore pleas to offer those foreign nationals who are putting their lives at risk in the NHS indefinite leave to remain in recognition of their efforts, but the Home Office is now adding to the pressure on health staff with this latest failure.”


US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
Updated 23 min 27 sec ago

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
  • NRA execs are facing charges of illegally diverting funds for lavish personal trips and other questionable expenditures
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight

AUSTIN, Texas: The National Rifle Association announced Friday it has filed for bankruptcy protection and will seek to incorporate the nation’s most politically influential gun-rights group in Texas instead of New York.
The announcement came months after New York’s attorney general sued the organization over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.
The coronavirus pandemic has also upended the NRA, which last year laid off dozens of employees. The group canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising. The NRA’s bankruptcy filing listed between $100 million and $500 million in assets and between $100 million and $500 million in liabilities. Still, the NRA claimed in announcing the move that the organization was “in its strongest financial condition in years.”
The NRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Dallas and said it planned to incorporate in Texas, where records show it formed a limited liability corporation, Sea Girt LLC, in November 2020. Sea Girt LLC made a separate bankruptcy filing Friday, listing fewer than $100,000 in liabilities.
In its filing, the NRA said its longtime leader, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, made the decision to file for bankruptcy protection in consultation with a “special litigation committee” comprised of three NRA officials that was formed in September to oversee its legal strategies. The NRA board voted Jan. 7 to clarify LaPierre’s employment agreement, giving him the power to “reorganize or restructure the affairs” of the organization.

National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre and other officials of the gun lobby are facing charges of diverting the gun lobby's money for lavish personal expenses. (AFP file photo)

“The move will enable long-term, sustainable growth and ensure the NRA’s continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom – free from the toxic political environment of New York,” the NRA said in a statement.
A message seeking comment was left with a Dallas lawyer who made the bankruptcy filings on behalf of the NRA and Sea Girt LLC.
Shortly after the announcement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight. Her office’s lawsuit last year highlighted misspending and self-dealing claims that have roiled the NRA and LaPierre in recent years— from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself.
“The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt,” James said.
The gun-rights group boasts about 5 million members. Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and is incorporated in the state. Going forward, the NRA said a committee will study opportunities to relocate segments of its operations to Texas and elsewhere.
The NRA’s largest creditor, owed $1.2 million, is Ackerman McQueen, which is the group’s former advertising agency that was behind the now-shuttered NRA TV service. The NRA sued the Oklahoma-based company in 2019, alleging it was being overbilled and said in Friday’s bankruptcy filing that the debt it is owed is disputed. The lawsuit is pending. A message seeking comment was left with Ackerman McQueen.
In the New York lawsuit, Ackerman McQueen was accused of aiding lavish spending by LaPierre and other NRA executives by picking up the tab and then sending a lump sum bill to the organization for “out-of-pocket expenses.”
“No financial filing can ever shroud the moral bankruptcy of Wayne LaPierre and his wife and their lap dogs on the NRA board,” said Bill Powers, an Ackerman McQueen spokesperson and former public affairs director for the NRA.
Court records also show more than $960,000 owed to Membership Marketing Partners LLC, a firm that lists its headquarters at the same address as the NRA. Another $200,000 is owed to Speedway Motorsports, the North Carolina-based company that owns and operates NASCAR tracks, according to the records.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quickly welcomed the news, tweeting: “Welcome to Texas — a state that safeguards the 2nd Amendment.” The NRA said it has more than 400,000 members in Texas and plans to hold its annual convention in Houston later this year.