There was a story in the Punch a couple of days ago, about a Nigerian woman who died in the UK shortly after childbirth. I didn't read much into the story and assumed it was simply another case of a visitor dying while on holiday, or something along those lines. The front page of today's Indy, on closer reading, tells a different story... I am seething.
A pregnant Elizabeth Alabi came to visit her partner in Grays, Essex. While in Britain, she fell ill. Doctors diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy. The solution was for her to get a new heart. No problem. After all, the UK is proud of the National Health Service - the fifth largest workforce - she would get good treatment. There might be donor shortages, but she'll at least be put on a priority waiting list. Right? Wrong.
Elizabeth Alabi was a tourist in this country, and therefore not entitled to free treatment on the NHS. This ensures that only people who are entitled to treatment get service, along with those who pay for the service (such as people in private care, but using NHS facilities). In the past, there had been issues of health tourists who come into the UK, simply for the NHS's "free at the point of use" ethos. What if you didn't come to the country as a health tourist, but as visitor who fell ill while in the UK? Under new rules, Her Majesty's Government makes no provision for such people.
After several legal challenges, the stroke of a judge's pen condemned Elizabeth Alabi to death. She might not have gotten a heart in time to save her life, but she wasn't even considered. And that is the rub. She should have been considered for the simple reason that this was an organ donation issue. It would not have mattered if she was paying for service or not, because organs for transplant are not bought and sold commodities. They are free.
It should be noted that she couldn't go back home to Nigeria because she was too ill too travel. It should also be noted that she never once overstayed her holiday visas. And it should be remembered that her partner pays taxes in this country and has leave to remain. If he was in her position, the state would have looked after him. But the state could not extend that courtesy, nay, right, to his nearest and dearest.
A callous, faceless, and deeply prejudiced immigration system is partly to blame for Elizabeth Alabi's death. The British Government might not have its hands dripping with Elizabeth Alabi's blood, but the splashes are there, perhaps on its lapel or a speck on its sleeve. The blood is there.
We all talk about immigration, about keeping the "others" out. I emphasise, as I always have, that none of use chose where we are born. Yet, in today's world, where we are born might just determine how we die.
I was originally going to attack the way immigration is debated, not just in Britain, but in the US, and the world over. But I saw the Indy story, and it overshadowed things somewhat. "Illegals" appears to be the mot du jour, as if a human being can be described as illegal. I, in my obvious ignorance, thought that perhaps an act could be illegal. But never did I think human being can be an illegal person. As if the act of being was against the law. Once you dehumanise a person, you can reduce them to statistics and characterise them using their immigration status. As if that were what a defined them as human beings. The case of Elizabeth Alabi, sadly, has proved this.