Spanish illegal immigrants no longer given free health care
Illegal immigrants in Spain have been told they will no longer be allowed access to free health care in the latest austerity drive by the Spanish government as it struggles to meet strict budget deficit targets.
An estimated half-a-million illegal migrants living within Spain will lose their rights following the government's move last month to revoke a provision in the current law that guaranteed free health care for all.
Those without residency papers have been told to rely on charity to meet their health care needs, including antiviral drugs and cancer treatments.
Spain's regions have been ordered to roll out the new measures in a bid to reduce Spain's budget deficit from 8.5 per cent GDP in 2011 to within the 5.3 per cent this year demanded by Brussels.
The autonomous region of Madrid, which is governed by the Popular Party, have already started turning illegal immigrants away. provoking criticism from opposition parties and welfare groups.
Some 300 organisations across Spain, including patients associations and Aids advocacy groups, staged demonstrations against the cuts on Wednesday.
"From a humanitarian point of view, this is a repugnant measure," said Gaspar Llamazares, a United Left deputy in Congress and member of the health committee.
Catalonia, Spain's northeastern autonomous region, has however defied orders from the central government and said it will continue to provide basic health care to those that need it, even those without residency.
"Those applying for a health card will be checked out to see if they live here and, like us, work and pay taxes," said Ana Mato, Health Minister, unveiling the new policy last month.
This week she added that regional governments should work with NGOs to provide health care for the most needy.
"All regional governments are planning to reach agreements with organisations that assist immigrants outside the system, so they can also receive primary care assistance," she said.