Nigel Farage, leader of the right wing UKIP party, called for HIV positive people and murderers to be banned from migrating to Britain as a “good start” in “controlling the quality of people who come” to the UK.
The statement came shortly before the UKIP’s first ever MP was elected into office in the Clacton byelection, last night.
His statement has been met with a barrage of criticism from HIV/Aids campaigners, and human rights activists.
During an interview with Newsweek Europe about the Clacton and Heywood and Middleton byelections, Farage responded to a question about who should be allowed to emigrate to the UK, he said: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.”
Farage also referred to the case of convicted killer Arnis Zalkalns, suspected of murdering schoolgirl Alice Gross. “It’s simple. That Latvian convicted murdered shouldn’t have been allowed here.”
He added: “UKIP want to control the quantity and quality of people who come.”
When challenged by Newsweek Europe regarding barring HIV positive people from immigrating to the UK, he said: “There are 190 countries in the world that operate like that. That is what Britain should do.”
According to the Guardian there were 58,440 diagnoses of HIV of people born outside the UK between 2001 and 2013 out of 7.5 million UK residents who were born outside the country.
A group of nearly 20 Conservative MPs backed, earlier this year, an unsuccessful amendment to the Government’s Immigration Bill earlier this that would have required anyone coming to settle in the UK to prove that they were not HIV positive or carrying Hepatitis B.
In 2010 US president Barack Obama overturned a 20-year-old US travel and immigration ban against people with HIV.
There are still around 60 countries that currently bar people who are HIV-positive from entry including the Bahamas, the Kingdom of Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sudan, the UAE and Yemen.
In response, Rob McDowall, Member of the Equality Council in Scotland and Chair of LGBT Network told KaleidoScot: “HIV testing is voluntary and should remain so. Any assertions to the contrary are outrageous. Forcing people to take HIV tests at ports of entry would not only be shamelessly wicked and vile but would reignite prejudices against those living with HIV.
“I don’t for a moment think these are serious polices of the Nasty Party, rather headline grabbing soundbytes designed to keep UKIP in our newspapers.”
Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, criticised Farage’s statement as reinforcing stigma: “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.”
Seb Dance, openly gay Labour MEP for the London region, condemned UKIP’s leader statement: “Mr Farage’s comments on HIV are nothing but disgraceful. Let no one be in any doubt, this is not a party taking Britain to a brighter future; this is a party trying to roll back the clock to the 1980s. His comments are uninformed and dangerous. He should apologise.
“I suggest getting in touch with some of the great charities dealing with HIV such a as Terrence Higgins Trust and spending some time learning about the facts.”
Henry Smith, a Conservative MP, stated: “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.”
Farage also said that he would like to be appointed minister for Europe after next year’s general election, in a possible Conservative-UKIP coalition.