GP trainee 'cautiously optimistic' as Home Office drops deportation bid

The Home Office has dropped its bid to deport a Manchester-based doctor who faced being kicked out of the UK just five months before qualifying as a GP - after more than 300,000 people signed a petition to support him.

Dr Luke Ong, who is from Singapore but has been living and working in the UK for a decade, has now passed his CSA exam and needs just five more months of workplace-based assessment to qualify as a GP.

But after he narrowly missed a deadline to complete an application for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) because of an administrative holdup, the Home Office appealed against an earlier decision by an immigration judge that he should be allowed to remain.

Had the appeal been successful, Dr Ong faced deportation - a situation the BMA condemned this month as 'utterly incomprehensible'.

Home Office appeal

Dr Ong told GPonline that he had received an email from the Home Office to confirm it was withdrawing from the appeal process and that his case was being reconsidered.

'I'm cautiously optimistic,' he said. 'I have a certain degree of reservation and I will continue to have that until I have the piece of plastic from the Home Office that says "settled" - which is what I need to return to GP training.'

Dr Ong said he expected to hear a final decision within the coming days. Until Dr Ong receives a biometric residence permit or written confirmation from the courts and tribunals service, his lawyer warns that he will remain 'in limbo'.

The Manchester GP trainee told GPonline that he had been unable to work since 2 September 2017 and had struggled to support himself financially given that he was effectively unemployed with no access to benefits while his case remained in the balance.

Ultimately, however, he felt he had been fortunate. 'I am lucky - there are others in similar situations who have had to leave because they could not fight the battle in the way I have been able to.'

Public support

More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Home Office to back down and allow Dr Ong to remain in the UK. He said the support he had received had been 'amazing'.

'I have been so strenthened and renewed - it has been so heartening and encouraging to have this support, not just from the British public but from the BMA, my training programme and others. I think that played a big part in the Home Office listening - without that support I really don't think we would have got here.'

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'We are pleased that the government has seen sense and backed away from trying to deport someone who has spent the last decade dedicating himself to a career in the NHS. The strong reaction to Dr Ong’s case from both healthcare professionals and members of the public highlighted the absurdity of a system that would seek to remove a valued doctor from the country over an administrative error.'

A Home Office spokeswoman said: 'All applications are considered on their individual merits, including any exceptional or compassionate circumstances, and in line with the immigration rules.

'Dr Ong's case has been reviewed following further representations. The Home Office has applied to withdraw from the ongoing appeal proceedings and will reconsider his application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). UK Visas & Immigration are in direct contact with Dr Ong in relation to his case.'

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