SINGAPORE: A Singaporean doctor facing deportation from the United Kingdom might get to stay in the country after the UK Home Office dropped its legal case to deport him.
In a blog post on Monday (Apr 16), Dr Luke Ong confirmed that UK authorities had decided to withdraw from the process of appealing against an earlier judgment to let him stay.
Dr Ong, who has spent more than 10 years in the UK and is five months from completing training to be a general practitioner (GP), had started a petition on change.org in which he called on the Home Office to drop its bid to deport him.
"The UK has been my home for over 10 years where I’ve been training to be a doctor," said Dr Ong. "I’m now just five months away from completing my GP training - but that came to grinding halt last year because the Home Office refused me Indefinite Leave to Remain."
He added that he was refused the visa because of an "honest oversight" in which he had submitted his application 18 days late, "because the appointment, which I paid for, was the earliest available one throughout the UK".
After the refusal, Dr Ong appealed the decision and won. However, the Home Office then applied for it to be overturned.
"The Home Office have finally confirmed their decision to withdraw its challenge to the successful appeal of my refusal of Indefinite Leave to Remain," said Dr Ong in his blog post.
He added that he was "cautiously optimistic" but did not want to celebrate the decision prematurely.
"This is a very positive development, and I am cautiously optimistic as the final reconsideration has not yet concluded," he said.
"There is some reservation in me and I do not want to indulge in a premature celebration until it has all been finalised in writing and I get my Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) with the words 'Settled' on it."
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 315,000 people had signed Dr Ong's initial petition. In his blog post, Dr Ong called the public response to his case "phenomenal".
"It has been very reaffirming and empowering knowing that the Great British public have shown so much solidarity and support for me and my fight against the Home Office - I could not have asked for more."
Responding to the news, the British Medical Association, the trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK, said that they were "pleased" with the decision.
"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 (National Health Service)," said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, in a statement on the association's website.
"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."
Dr Nagpaul added: “There is a serious shortage of GPs in England, and as we said in our letter to the Home Secretary about this case, any immigration system must be flexible and practical in its approach to hiring doctors born overseas if we are ever to solve the NHS workforce crisis.”
In response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, a Home Office spokesman said all applications “are considered on their individual merits", including any exceptional or compassionate circumstances.
"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,” he added.
The Home Office explained that the initial decision to refuse Dr Ong’s application was “in line with the Immigration Rules” as Dr Ong did not have 10 years of lawful residency at the point of application.
The spokesman also said that the UK Visas and Immigration authorities are in direct contact with Dr Ong in relation to his case.