Ukip leader accused of ‘new level of ignorance’ for remarks as he stakes claim to be Europe minister in a Tory-Ukip coalition
The Guardian – Nigel Farage was accused of stooping to a “new level of ignorance” after he called for people who have tested positive for HIV to be banned from migrating to Britain as a “good start” in controlling the UK’s borders.
Britain’s oldest HIV/Aids charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the Ukip leader should feel “truly ashamed” of himself after showing “an outrageous lack of understanding” over such a sensitive issue.
Farage made his remarks in an interview with Newsweek Europe, published as polls closed in the Clacton and Heywood and Middleton byelections. When asked what sort of people should be allowed to migrate to Britain, he said: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.”
Farage’s remarks appeared to hark back to the era of panic over HIV/Aids in the 1980s when the US imposed an almost blanket ban on people with HIV entering the country. This lasted from 1987 until 2009 when it was rescinded by Barack Obama.
The Ukip leader may have referred to people with the virus because 38% of new HIV diagnoses in 2013 were of people born outside the UK, according to Public Health England. But the numbers are small in relative terms. There were 58,440 diagnoses of HIV of people born outside the UK between 2001 and 2013. There are 7.5 million people living in the UK who were born outside the country.
Responding to the controversy on Radio 4’s Today Programme he said a similar ban operated in the US, and that the NHS could not afford to treat people with life threatening diseases.
“We should do what America does, what Australia does, what every country in the world does. We want people who have trade and skills. But we do not want people with criminal records and we cannot afford to have people with life threatening diseases,” he said.
“We have leading cancer experts in Britain saying the burden now of treating overseas people is leading to huge shortages in the system. I do not think those (immigrants) with life threatening diseases should be treated by NHS”.
Farage also said that he would ban anyone with a murder conviction from migrating to Britain after Arnis Zalkans, the Latvian builder who was jailed in his home country for the murder of his wife in 1998, emerged as the prime suspect in the murder of the teenage Londoner Alice Gross. His badly decomposed body was found a few days after Alice’s body was recovered from the river Brent.
Farage said: “It’s simple. That Latvian convicted murderer shouldn’t have been allowed here.”
Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, condemned Farage for bracketing people who had tested positive for HIV with murderers. She said: “The idea that having HIV should be used as a black mark against someone’s name is ridiculous and shows an outrageous lack of understanding of the issue.
“It is to the UK’s credit that for more than three decades successive governments, no matter their political stamp, have refused to put in place border controls against people living with HIV.
“Major international organisations, including the United Nations, agree that such draconian measures would have no impact on the epidemic.
“In bracketing those living with the condition with murderers, and suggesting there is no place for them in his vision of Britain, Mr Farage has stooped to a new level of ignorance. He should be truly ashamed.”
Challenged by Newsweek Europe about his belief that only electricians, merchant bankers and people without HIV should be admitted to Britain, Farage said: “There are 190 countries in the world that operate like that. That is what Britain should do.
“I have never said that we should not take refugees. We have a proud record of accepting refugees.”
Henry Smith, a Conservative MP, said: “It’s official – Nigel Farage doesn’t care about the long-term future of our country. All he’s interested in is the next publicity stunt.
“With offensive gimmicks like this he’s shown he has no credible plan to tackle the uncontrolled mess that Labour left our immigration system in.”
The Ukip leader also said that he would like to be appointed minister for Europe after next year’s general election.
Farage said he would like the post, which would have to be in a coalition government, to allow him to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU.
In his interview with Newsweek Europe, Farage said Britain’s main problem with immigration stemmed from its “open door” policy with the rest of the EU.
He said this had ended up preventing skilled migrants from outside the EU moving to the UK because the government had imposed restrictions in its unsuccessful attempt to keep net migration down to the tens of thousands.
The Ukip leader said: “They [skilled non-EU citizens] are discriminated against because we have an open door into Europe. Today, if you’re an Indian engineer, say, your chances of admission are limited. Ukip want to control the quantity and quality of people who come.”
Farage made his remarks about HIV after his interviewer, Robert Chalmers, asked a provocative question about Zimbabweans travelling to Britain. Chalmers suggested that a Zimbabwean with the wrong skills, “the wrong colour skin” and perhaps with HIV would not be welcomed to Britain by Ukip.
Farage described the leaders of the UK’s three main parties as “truly appalling” people, “as dull as bloody ditchwater”. He went on to say he would like to negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from the EU as Europe minister.
He said: “If things go well next spring, I would like to be minister for Europe. I mean that quite seriously. I would like to be the person who goes to Brussels and says: ‘We want to trade with you. We want reciprocal relationships.
“But this European treaty doesn’t work for us and so we are breaking it.’ I would like to be remembered as the man who reclaimed our independence and democracy.”
Farage’s remarks about becoming a minister in a Tory-Ukip coalition showed his confidence as the polls closed in the two byelections.
The Clacton byelection was caused by the defection of the former Tory MP Douglas Carswell, who is standing as the Ukip candidate. Carswell had a majority of 12,068 in 2010. The Heywood and Middleton byelection was caused by the death of the Labour MP Jim Dobbin who had a majority of 5,971 in 2010.