The pre-screening requirement will affect migrants applying to enter the UK for more than six months, including students. UKBA said it was likely to begin the extended procedure around July 2012, phasing out on-entry screening at Heathrow and Gatwick.
Immigration minister Damian Green said: “A third of the world’s population is carrying tuberculosis and it is currently at its highest level in the UK for 30 years. It’s essential that we take action to tackle its continued rise.”
Research showed non-UK born people accounted for three quarters of all new TB cases diagnosed
He continued, “Pre-entry screening, followed by treatment where necessary, will help to prevent the risk of TB in the UK and will also save lives.” He estimated that the measure would save the UK up to £40million over ten years and he pointed out that research showed non-UK born people accounted for three quarters of all new TB cases diagnosed.
The move follows a pilot programme launched in 2005 with a select group of countries; UKBA has been screening of persons applying for long-term visas on a model routinely employed by the USA, Australia and Canada. Countries involved include Pakistan, Ghana and Thailand.
UKBA said pre-entry screening would reduce immigration waiting times at UK airports, where migrants can be asked to take an examination for the disease. However, Pakistani agency HS Consultants (Pvt) Ltd – For International Studies said pre-screening in Pakistan had added to delays.
“Students have to wait for 2-3 days to get an appointment. After that, it takes more days than expected in order to process the cases which eventually becomes the cause, along with other delays, of refusals or missing out the intakes/sessions and the waste of time, energy and of course money,” said Asif Sohani, senior education promotion manager.
However, an agent at IDP in Thailand, told The PIE News that health exams in her country were inexpensive and pre-entry screening had been simple for agents to adjust to.
Pre-entry screening had been simple for agents to adjust to
UKBA said the increase of TB in the UK in recent decades was attributable to international migration from countries with high TB incidence rates. One London borough has even proposed banning spitting to counter spread of the disease.
“Most foreign-born TB patients only develop the disease in its active form years after arrival in the UK. We will therefore explore ways to improve the sharing of information between the UK Border Agency and the HPA about individuals coming to live in the UK for more than 6 months from high incidence countries,” Green said.