Author: Nick Bostock
A doctor who has lived in the UK for a decade faces deportation just five months before completing his GP training, in a decision the BMA has condemned as ‘utterly incomprehensible’.
The Home Office is appealing against a decision by an immigration judge who ruled that Dr Luke Ong should be allowed to stay in the UK. Dr Ong is from Singapore but has been in the UK legally throughout his university education and medical training.
The decision to deport him came after he narrowly missed a deadline to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Dr Ong says he applied and paid for his meeting to apply for ILR before his existing visa expired, but was then told he was 18 days too late when the meeting took place.
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the decision to press for his deportation because of a delay in his visa process ‘beggars belief’ when the government is spending heavily on recruiting GPs from abroad – and when the GP workforce is in decline.
Dr Ong has launched an online petition to raise awareness of his case, and wrote: ‘At a time when the NHS is struggling to train and recruit GPs, I find it absolutely ridiculous that I am on the cusp of becoming a GP, but potentially facing deportation if the Home Office presses ahead with its appeal.
‘I have given the best years of my life to the NHS, toiling relentlessly through nights and weekends for many years, paying my taxes and contributing to wider society – sadly all this counts for nothing, and the Home Office are now treating me as an illegal immigrant, having confiscated my passports and university degree.’
Dr Nagpaul said: ‘This situation, in which a doctor who has committed the last 10 years of his life studying, training and serving in the NHS faces deportation over what appears to be an honest oversight, beggars belief at a time when the government is prepared to spend millions recruiting GPs from abroad.
‘The government knows there is a serious shortage of GPs in England, with too few medical students opting for the specialism, while experienced doctors reduce their hours or retire early – something which is having a negative effect on patient care. The Home Office must therefore move away from this hostile culture and any approach to immigration rules for doctors needs to be flexible and – ultimately ‘ practical. For them to seemingly take such a strict stand in this case is utterly incomprehensible.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘All visa applications are considered in line with immigration rules and on the evidence provided.
‘Mr Ong’s case is currently under appeal and it would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.’