Like a newly wed bride caught in adultery, campaigners have have shamelessly welcomed the relaxation of immigration restrictions by governments across Europe and the Americas to allow doctors, nurses and other key workers from refugee and migrant communities to join efforts against coronavirus – coranavirus has made them see the value in foreigners.
This is not a kind gesture as they know that carers for coronavirus victims are vulnerable to infection and may die. The campaigners urged countries still preventing medically-trained asylum seekers from working – including Britain – to follow suit – so that they can send them to coronavirus-war-front?
However, the refugees should use this time to advocate for the legitimisation of their immigration status – tit for tat, rub my back, I rub your back.
This week New Jersey became the second US state, after New York, to acivate emergency powers to temporarily relax restrictions on foreign-born medical professionals, helping health systems struggling to care for rising numbers of Covid-19 patients.
In Germany, hundreds of foreign doctors and nurses without licences to practice signed up to work. They were called by local authorities who promised to train them. It is worrisome that these nations choose to help (train them and give them licence) only because they are stranded – coronavirus is pillaging their countries – now their wicked eyes are open to value the foreigners.
Britain extended visas for nearly 3,000 National Health Service (NHS) workers from overseas this week. Despite calls for the government and General Medical Council (GMC) to fast-track their accreditation, hundreds more people are qualified but unable to practise.
Marta Foresti, director of the Overseas Development Institute, Europe, said the hostile environment towards migrants needed to end.
“Refugees and other migrants are exposed to great risks as a result of the pandemic. However many of them play a major role as doctors, nurses, delivery drivers and shelf stackers, all key to the response to the Covid pandemic. They are the vital, essential, fundamental key workers who will save our lives, often risking theirs.
“We should learn from this in the future, and recognise the value of all of us contributing to our societies and economies. Let this be the end of the hostile environment once and for all.”
Foresti revealed that weeks before the government confirmed delivery drivers were key workers in the coronavirus response, the home secretary, Priti Patel, had unveiled plans for a new post-Brexit immigration bill aimed at reducing low-skill migration (perhaps they may think twice now, seeing the role migrants have played in these trying times)
In Spain, the government fast-tracks the status of 200 foreign-born doctors and nurses in the country, part of a series of measures put in place since a state of emergency was declared on 14 March.
In France, health services can now recruit unverified refugee graduates who are qualified as doctors, dentists or pharmacists in their home countries. Groups of doctors from China, Albania, Cuba and Russia have travelled to Italy to help.
In Saxony, the heartland of the nationalist Alternative für Deutschland, which gained support in Germany last year over voter opposition to refugees, the regional medical board has had offers of help from more than 300 foreign-born medical professionals.
Knut Köhler of the Saxony medical chamber said the number included 100 doctors whose licences to practice were not complete, including some from Syria. The number of Syrian doctors in Saxony has risen from 52 six years ago to 297 today.
“It would normally take six months or longer to be registered and after that they work on probation. It is not an easy process. They have to get translations of all the documents from the clinics, do a medical language test.”
Köhler said foreign doctors would be fast-tracked for training. They would be allowed to perform basic medical tasks and also help on the hotlines for Covid-19. Some of them will be paid, others not.
The world should learn from the helplessness of the high and mighty in this critical time and eradicate unnecessary discrimination against foreigners who live among them.
Other nations who often see no good in foreigners living among them should take a cue from this situation.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34.