Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Migrants with no medical insurance 'won't get NHS care': British Minister's tough stance on new influx from the East

Migrants from Romania and Bulgaria who travel to Britain without a job are to be told they must have private medical insurance to prevent the NHS becoming an ‘international health service’.

Immigration minister Mark Harper told the Daily Mail that limiting access to free healthcare is seen as key to preventing a fresh influx of migrants when controls are lifted at the end of this year.

He suggested the requirement for medical insurance would apply to all student incomers and those who claim they are ‘self-sufficient’, meaning they are not coming looking immediately for work.

Ministers are also examining incomers’ rights to benefits and other public services. Other measures under discussion include requiring migrants to leave Britain if they fail to secure a job after three months – or cannot prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves for at least six months.

Transitional arrangements in place since 2005, which restrict the rights of 29million Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to live and work in other EU states, will expire on January 1. No official figure has been put on the anticipated number of arrivals, but Tory MPs warn there must be no repeat of the situation when Poland joined the EU and Labour catastrophically underestimated the numbers that would come.

A significant influx of immigrants from the two former Communist regimes could derail the Conservatives’ testing target of reducing net immigration to under 100,000 by 2015.

Campaign group MigrationWatch has claimed as many as 250,000 people could arrive in the UK from Romania and Bulgaria over the next five years, though ministers do not believe there will necessarily be an influx of that size since other EU countries are lifting restrictions at the same time.

Mr Harper, who is chairing a new cross-Government committee examining measures to deter incomers who would be a burden, said: ‘We are all clear we need an immigration system that works in the national interest. That is why we are bringing together colleagues from other departments to address the pull factors that drive immigration to the UK.

‘European nationals do not have unrestricted access to the UK – they must be exercising their treaty rights. This means they must be working, studying or self-sufficient. We already have tough rules on access to benefits; we need to see if there is more we can do to tighten them up.

‘In addition, EU students and those that are self-sufficient should not be a burden on the host member state, which means they should have things like health insurance. We have a National Health Service, not an international health service.’

It is unclear how the proposals would work in practice but it is likely NHS staff would be asked to check healthcare entitlements when migrants first came into contact with the NHS.

But restrictions on access to free healthcare are likely to run into opposition from some doctors, who resent the idea they should act as another branch of the immigration service.

Ministers insist Britain must have the right to address ‘pull factors’ that are blamed for attracting jobless migrants from the EU. Areas being looked at include healthcare, education, housing and benefits.

The NHS has written off debts of at least £35million incurred by foreign national patients since 2002.

As well as restrictions on students and non-working migrants from the EU, ministers are understood to be considering making non-EU migrants have health insurance before being granted a visa.

Downing Street said the Government was determined to prevent potential damage to the labour market from a fresh influx of migrants, but acknowledged Britain will have to operate within EU rules on the right to free movement. The Government is also examining the idea of an ad campaign telling potential migrants in Romania and Bulgaria that British streets are not necessarily ‘paved with gold’.


Key senators agree on immigration reform

A bipartisan group of leading senators has reached agreement on the principles of sweeping legislation to rewrite the nation's immigration laws.

The deal, which was to be announced at a news conference Monday afternoon, covers border security, guest workers and employer verification, as well as a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.

Although thorny details remain to be negotiated and success is far from certain, the development heralds the start of what could be the most significant effort in years toward overhauling the nation's inefficient patchwork of immigration laws.

President Obama also is committed to enacting comprehensive immigration legislation and will travel to Nevada on Tuesday to lay out his vision, which is expected to overlap in important ways with the Senate effort.

The eight senators expected to endorse the new principles Monday are Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

In a statement, White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, "As the President has made clear for some time, immigration reform is an important priority and he is pleased that progress is being made with bipartisan support. At the same time, he will not be satisfied until there is meaningful reform and he will continue to urge Congress to act until that is achieved. The President looks forward to redoubling the administration's efforts to work with Congress on this important issue this week."

Several of these lawmakers have worked for years on the issue. McCain collaborated with the late Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on comprehensive immigration legislation pushed by then-President George W. Bush in 2007, only to see it collapse in the Senate when it couldn't get enough GOP support.

Now, with some Republicans chastened by the November elections which demonstrated the importance of Latino voters and their increasing commitment to Democrats, some in the GOP say this time will be different.

"What's changed, honestly, is that there is a new, I think, appreciation on both sides of the aisle -- including maybe more importantly on the Republican side of the aisle -- that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill," McCain said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"I think the time is right," McCain said.

The group claims a notable newcomer in Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate whose conservative bona fides may help smooth the way for support among conservatives wary of anything that smacks of amnesty.

In an opinion piece published Sunday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Rubio wrote that the existing system amounts to "de facto amnesty," and he called for "commonsense reform."

The group says in a statement, "We recognize that our immigration system is broken. And while border security has improved significantly over the last two Administrations, we still don't have a functioning immigration system. This has created a situation where up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows. Our legislation acknowledges these realities by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here. We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited."

According to documents obtained by CBS News and The Associated Press, the senators will call for accomplishing four goals:

-Creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here, contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people here on visas.

-Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.

-Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants.

-Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn't recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.

The principles being released Monday are outlined on just over four pages, leaving plenty of details left to fill in.

What the senators do call for is similar to Mr. Obama's goals and some past efforts by Democrats and Republicans, since there's wide agreement in identifying problems with the current immigration system.

The most difficult disagreement is likely to arise over how to accomplish the path to citizenship.

In order to satisfy the concerns of Rubio and other Republicans, the senators are calling for the completion of steps on border security and oversight of those here on visas before taking major steps forward on the path to citizenship.

Even then, those here illegally would have to qualify for a "probationary legal status" that would allow them to live and work here -- but not qualify for federal benefits -- before being able to apply for permanent residency. Once they are allowed to apply, they would do so behind everyone else already in line for a green card within the current immigration system.

That could be a highly cumbersome process, but how to make it more workable is being left to future negotiations. The senators envision a more streamlined process toward citizenship for immigrants brought here as children by their parents, and for agricultural workers.

The debate will play out at the start of Mr. Obama's second term, as he aims to spend the political capital afforded him by his re-election victory on an issue that has eluded past presidents and stymied him during his first term despite his promises to the Latino community to act.

"As the president has made clear for some time, immigration reform is an important priority and he is pleased that progress is being made with bipartisan support," a White House spokesman, Clark Stevens, said in a statement. "At the same time, he will not be satisfied until there is meaningful reform and he will continue to urge Congress to act until that is achieved."

For Republicans, the November elections were a stark schooling on the importance of Latino voters, who voted for Mr. Obama over Republican Mitt Romney 71 percent to 27 percent, helping ensure Obama's victory. That led some Republican leaders to conclude that supporting immigration reform with a path to citizenship has become a political imperative.


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