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Indian Doctors in Britain Lose Legal Battle

A pall of gloom descended over thousands of doctors of Indian origin in Britain - many of them reduced to scrounging// for free meals in temples and gurudwaras - after they lost a case Friday against changes in immigration rules that make it virtually impossible to gain employment in the country's National Health Service (NHS).

Many doctors who had found temporary employment now face the prospect of returning home, while others waiting to find employment find one more door closed. Until Friday, thousands of doctors from India and outside the European Union who passed qualifying British tests had been living in penury and hope in parts of London and elsewhere.

The changes to the rules were announced on March 7, 2006, and came into force on April 3, 2006. The changes abolished permit-free training and made it mandatory for doctors from outside the European Union to obtain a work permit to gain employment in the NHS.

The NHS has historically attracted a large number of doctors from India and other Commonwealth countries. But the situation changed for them with a larger number of British graduates passing out from medical schools, and nationals of an expanded European Union having the right to work in Britain.

On Friday, Lord Justice Stanley Burton of the High Court of Justice of Queen's Bench Division did not accept that there were sufficient grounds to support the claim that the changes in the immigration rules or the subsequent guidance given by the Department of Health were unlawful.

The outcome is expected to set a precedent for two more judicial review petitions relating to changes made to the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP) and raising the qualifying period for permanent settlement for immigrants on work permits from four years to five years.

The immigrants affected under these categories - many of them Indians - have initiated the legal process, but the British Association of Phys
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