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Family of Egyptian doctor paralysed by coronavirus faces possible deportation from Britain

Dr Basem Enany served the NHS during Britain's pandemic and is now fighting for his life after contracting Covid-19
Since his diagnosis, Enany developed paralysis in both of his legs after developing Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GoFundMe)

The family of an Egyptian doctor who worked on the frontlines during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic is now critically ill with the virus and faces possible deportation from the United Kingdom, Middle East Eye has learned. 

Dr Basem Enany, a cardiologist from Egypt who has worked as a consultant at York Teaching Hospital, is currently fighting for his life on a ventilator at a hospital in Yorkshire, his family told MEE.

His colleagues said that Enany worked during the night shift at the peak of the pandemic, helping patients who developed heart conditions after contracting the coronavirus. 

'I want my husband to be treated by this great country just like how he treated his patients and to feel safe again'

- wife of Basem Enany

Enany's contract with York Teaching hospital where he worked as a locum consultant is set to finish at the end of November and his work visa is due to expire at the beginning of December. 

In mid-September, Enany tested positive for Covid-19. Since his diagnosis, Enany developed paralysis in both of his legs after developing Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare complication from viruses, including Covid-19. 

Before he fell ill, Enany was working on applications and intended to renew his visa. He has been on a ventilator for the last two weeks and is experiencing breathing problems. The only way he can communicate is via a sound valve and with the help of nurses because he is too weak to lift his arms.  

Speaking to Middle East Eye, Enany's wife, who wished not to give her full name, said the visa issue had worsened the situation for the family and her husband.  

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"Whenever Basem calls the family, the first and usual question he asks me is: how is the visa situation?" Enany's wife told MEE. She has not been able to see her husband since he was taken to hospital four weeks ago. 

"The situation is already very distressing and made things even worse. My oldest child is asking if we have to leave our home and my youngest daughter is worried about her dad."

Enany's wife confirmed to MEE that the UK Home Office said it was working on a solution but did not give her any assurances that her family will remain in the country. 

"They called me today and said they will try and figure out a solution. Till now they have not said anything to us," said Enany's wife. 

Following her husband's hospital admission to intensive care, Enany's colleagues raised thousands of pounds to support the family and help them build a legal case to stay in Britain. 

The page notes that Enany is the sole breadwinner for his family and father to four young girls. It also notes that Enany looked after and helped save the lives of severely critically ill cardiac patients. 

Dr Yehia Makkaya, a registrar at a hospital in Leicester, said that the family have been "worried sick" about the visa situation. 

"Bassem and the family are all worried about the situation," said Makkaya, who is a family friend to Enany.

"His brain is working but the disease is affecting his limbs and muscles. He can communicate, but a nurse has to hold his hand so he can move his fingers along the screen. 

"Basem is in no position to travel. Even after he gets through this, he will need months of rehabilitation."

Precariousness of Tier 2 visa 

Enany's situation has highlighted the precarious nature faced by hundreds of international doctors and nurses working on Tier 2 visas for Britain's National Health Service (NHS). 

Many NHS doctors who spoke to MEE said that restrictions posed by the UK's Tier 2 visa meant that they had no choice but to work during the pandemic even if they had underlying health issues. 

A foreign worker who works in Britain on a Tier 2 visa must meet certain conditions set out by the British government. These restrictions include working a certain number of hours and earning at least £30,000 or an "appropriate rate" for the job offered. 

"We don't have the option to stay at home. Our visa won't permit us...to work in the hospital. We have to be on the front lines," an Egyptian radiologist who has a Tier 2 visa and knows Enany told MEE. 

"You can't afford to stay at home even if you're high risk. I know a lot of people from the Muslim community who have asthma, diabetes." 

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Another NHS doctor from Egypt on a Tier 2 visa said that "If you go less than full-time work, your salary threshold defined by the UK is gone and therefore have no choice but to leave the country."

Dr Terry Jones, who chairs the British Medical Associations International Committee, reiterated his support for Enany's family.

"“Our international colleagues have proven invaluable during the Covid-19 response, underlining the vital contribution that they have made to the NHS since its inception," said Jones.  

"But we know of the high cost that too many have paid, with a disproportionate number of health and care workers from overseas – and especially those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds – becoming seriously ill, and tragically many dying from the virus."

The British Islamic Muslim Association (BIMA) also reiterated the BMA's concerns and noted that Enany was an active member of BIMA who was due to teach a CPR lifesavers course in September before he fell ill. 

"We implore the Home Office to grant him and his family indefinite leave to remain, especially considering the contribution and sacrifice he has made to the health service," a BIMA spokesperson told MEE. 

"This should be the last thing that overseas health professionals on visas should be thinking about as they fight the pandemic on the frontline." 

Enany in the UK 'entirely legally'

The UK Home Office in a statement to the Press Association said that Dr Enany is here "entire legally and has every right to remain in the UK".

The spokesperson added that the Home Office intended to contact Enany's family and his employers. 

The York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust confirmed to MEE that Enany's current situation would not change its intention to end his contract.

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"Locum contracts are by their nature for a fixed term period and unfortunately we had agreed with Dr Enany that his contract would end as planned," a spokesperson for the trust told MEE.

"He has been a locum doctor with us for nearly two years and we are immensely grateful for the valuable contribution he has made during that time."

Enany's wife is awaiting a solution from the UK Home Office.

"I just want our life to be back to normal," stressed Enany's wife.

 "I want my husband to be treated by this great country just like how he treated his patients and to feel safe again."