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Universal Human Rights, except if you are a Ghanaian without a visa?

This is a guest post by Modernity

There is much debate over the case of Ama Sumani:

“The UK government has said it will not reconsider its decision to remove a terminally ill African woman, whose visa had expired.

Ama Sumani, 39, who has cancer, was sent back to Ghana from Cardiff last week but cannot afford kidney dialysis treatment to prolong her life.

The Lancet medical journal had called the decision “atrocious barbarism”. “

Is the Lancet correct?

Should she have been deported? Or should she have been given lifesaving treatment on the NHS? And if so, who should pay for it?

More broadly, should foreigners with no residential or familial connection to Britain be allowed expensive treatment on the NHS?

All very valid questions if you like that sort of thing, but in my view, they are narrow and parochial, because they side step the wider issue of universal human rights.

If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, should you reasonably expect treatment on a par with the citizens of that country? Or should you be naturally disadvantaged because you are a foreigner? That applies to Ms. Sumani coming to Britain, or Britons and Europeans travelling to faraway places. So when you look at the case of Ms. Sumani, does it invoke in you the question of pounds, shillings and pence?

Or the universal right to equal treatment, whether or not you are resident, or just a visitor to that particular country? And how far are we committed to universal human rights? Only when they are relevant to us? Or are they applicable across the globe? Do they even apply to Ghanaians, with or without visas?

Imagine a scenario:

You are a European, an American or some Westerner and you are travelling Latin America, you’ve insured yourself and you’ve got the visas. But by some fluke your insurance has run out (maybe it’s near the end of travelling, or you just miscalculated the dates). Then you are seriously injured (or catch a very nasty illness) in that distant country, for whatever reason, you can’t pay for your medical treatment and your visas about to expire. Would you then be happy if you were unceremoniously deported from that distant country, while still undergoing critical medical treatment? Or would you expect to be treated with compassion and thought until you were better?

And if the latter, why should Ms. Sumani have expect that too?

There are many possible circumstances that we might find ourselves in when abroad, and is it a reasonable expectation that we want to be all treated equally? Or must we be automatically deprived of rights because we are a foreigner in a foreign country?

How far do universal human rights really go? All the way? Or not that far if you are an outsider and in particular when it costs?”

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