The doctor who did not live to hear UK ruling

By Prasun Sonwalkar

London(IANS) : Imran Yousaf, the young doctor of Pakistan origin who was one of the parties to the legal challenge that ended in the Friday high court ruling bringing Diwali cheer and relief to thousands of Indian and other overseas doctors, had committed suicide earlier this year.

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Yousaf, who was in his late 20s and worked for a while in Lancashire, had moved to Britain in 2004 from a village near Lahore. He was among the thousands who were adversely affected by the changes to immigration rules in March 2006.

When the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) decided to initiate legal action, it needed an applicant who was willing to allow his name to be used as an individual in the court proceedings

Yousaf, who faced the prospect of serious financial and other problems due to the rule changes, agreed to lend his name. Ramesh Mehta, president of BAPIO, then said: “Being unemployed and still looking for work, going up against the government was a very brave thing to do.”

While the legal case was proceeding, Yousaf sought visa extensions to remain in Britain, but after some brief extensions, he received a letter from the Home Office that his application had been rejected, and that he needed to leave the country.

By then he had racked up debts of over thousands of pounds and was reduced to penury. In emails sent to a doctor of Indian origin, Rajendra Chaudhary, before his death in January, Yousaf outlined his hopeless situation.

He was in no position to pay back debts of nearly 13,000 pounds he had accumulated in order to continue to live in Britain. All his attempts to find work proved futile reportedly due to the changes to immigration rules that were being challenged in court.

Some doctors found him space to stay in a surgery in Bedford, but on Jan 19 one of them unlocked the surgery to discover the body of Yousaf hanging from the ceiling. He did not leave a suicide note but near him was the letter from the Home Office informing him that he would not receive any further extensions to his visa.

After the Friday ruling, BAPIO said: “At this time of joy, BAPIO remembers with gratitude Dr Imran Yousaf who joined BAPIO in this struggle for justice and whose life was lost as a result of rules brought forth with no concern for their effects on doctors like him”.

BAPIO sources said that besides Yousaf, many other overseas doctors who had been adversely affected by the changes had left Britain for jobs in Australia, Canada or back home in the Indian sub-continent. There were uconfirmed reports that two more doctors had committed suicide earlier this year.