_Spain's Unexplained Stance Denying Visas



Red2002 Press Release
Barcelona, 07/07/02

People registered in the International AIDS Conference
are unable to participate because their visas were denied.

Health professionals, NGO members and journalists from countries such as South Africa, Sri Lanka, or the former Republic of Yugoslavia will not be able to participate in the International AIDS Conference which started today in Barcelona. The number of people affected is hard to calculate due to limited access to the cases. The government admits there are at least twenty cases but Spanish NGOs believe that the number might be close to a hundred.

All these people have one thing in common: they come from developing countries where visas are needed to enter Spain and the European Union. Even though they were officially registered for the event, Spanish Law for foreigners requires them to fulfil with a number of conditions that sometimes are in complete contradiction with their status as participants.

One of the requrements is to prove that they have medical insurance. In many developing countries, there is no public medical coverage, which means that people need to pay for their own medical insurance. It does not make sense to require this of someone who has received a scholarship to come to Barcelona for the very reason that they have limited economic resources (another one of the requirements); in addition private medical insurance companies refuse to give coverage to people without an HIV test, and will deny it if the test is positive. Which in itself would be reason for visa denial.

"We are terrified at the possibility that a difference will be established between HIV+ people from the North and the South concerning the right to move and travel", says Joan Tallada from the Red2002. "Beyond the Conference, the Spanish government and other European governments need to realize that their immigration policies may be discriminating against HIV+ peopls from developing countries, which is something we are going to fight with all our strength."

In addition to the people who have not been able to travel to Barcelona because their visa was denied or delivered too late (after they had missed their flight), there were people who decided not to come after going through humiliating situations and receiving verbal and physical abuse in the Spanish offices abroad.

These activists and professionals are highly engaged in the activities of their local community where access to basic health care is not sufficient, including HIV/AIDS treatments. The denial of visas to people who should definitely participate in such a Conference is humiliating and insulting," says Tallada.

Tallada reminds the Northern countries that the international pressure to hold these types of Conferences outside the wealthy nations of the world is growing constantly: "if policies do not change, large international conferences on social issues such as AIDS will definitely be held in the south, which in the end is partly positive, but which also proves the growing gap between community and social movements and the governments."

Red2002 ~ Maria Eugenia Sebastian contact@red2002.org ~ www.red2002.org

Bwalya Nondo in Barcelona

July 8, 2002

The Spanish Government yesterday suffered International embarrassment when over 15,000 Delegates to the on-going 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona in deafening choruses of rage jeered at the Spanish Minister of Health Celia Villalobo and disrupted her official speech, to protest the perceived Spanish Govenment's attitude of insolence towards Visa applicants.

While other speakers who preceeded the Minister were cheered as they made their way to the podium, Mrs. Villalobos had to contend with a ceaseless tide of booing from an agitated international audience for Spain's unexplained stance to deny hundreds of other delegates who had registered for the Conference, Visas to enter Spain.

A mood of consternation filled the Palau Jardi Hall Venue of the Official Opening of the Conference, when Ms. Villalobos was called upon to make her remarks prior to UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot's speech.

The majority of delegates who were denied Visa on flimsy grounds are those who registered from Latin America and Africa.

Delegates said the attitude demonstrated by the Spanish Government was a serious dent on its international image.

A local Spanish NGO which joined other delegates in condemning Spain's poor international relations at a time when the country was hosting an important international Conference said Visa conditions like delegates having to buy medical insurance and other stringent requirements were unnecessary for African and Latin American delegates.

"We are terrified by the discrimination demonstrated by the Spanish Government between delegates from the North and South concerning the right to move and travel.

"The Spanish Government and other European countries need to realise that their immigration policies may be discriminating against People living with HIV/AIDS from develooping countries which is something we are going to fight with all our strength," said Maria Sebastian, Chairman of Red2002, a Spanish NGO propagating the Rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

HIV and freedom of travel
AIDS 2002 Conference
Barcelona, July 7-12, 2002

Where should future AIDS Conferences take place?

Once again, many of us could not participate at this conference due to "visa problems". Because of this, the Spanish Minister of Health was booed during the Opening Ceremony. The audience transformed their commitment and anger into action.

We do not have exact numbers of those who could not attend the conference. And it is not sure that every single case can be regarded as an act of discrimination and stigmatization against those who live with HIV/AIDS. But this example shows us again that we have to address travel restrictions for people living with HIV/AIDS. For those infected, these restrictions limit possibilities for sharing information, discussions, and for participation in general. This situation in a so-called global society is unbearable.

As long as the world is not a very open place for those who are infected, we should consider where future World AIDS Conferences should take place. It is by no means acceptable that those who need information the most will kept out in future. The phrase "one world one hope" (1996 Vancouver AIDS Conference) is a hypocrisy as long as this situation continues. It is a contradiction to the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human rights, too:

"There is no public health rational for restricting liberty in movement or choice or residence on the ground of HIV status" (Office of the United Nations, 1998). This rational is being broken very often.

This is a clear act of discrimination as Dr Irene Fernandez, Director of Tenganita and chair of Caram-Asia, pointed out on Monday in her Jonathan Mann memorial speech. "The inequalities and disparities are further fuelled by increasing stigmatization, discrimination and growing xenophobia in the developed world. This is evident in the new forms of harsh and racist policies against migrants, refugees and displaced persons. Canada, which has had a reputation for respecting the rights of people, today has imposed mandatory testing.

" But why ostracize those infected? HIV screening at international borders is designed to keep out AIDS. Again, this exclusionary policy toward those who are infected must be seen for what it is: discriminatory, an attack of human dignity, detrimental to solidarity and, from the point of prevention policy, shortsighted and dangerous, because it gives societies a false sense of security.

According to a global study of about 185 countries there are travel restrictions in the majority of countries. Not all of these have "severe" restrictions like the USA: most of them restrict "only" long term stays. The study shows that there are only 63 countries without any sort of restrictions. Most of these are either very small or in Africa. But they include Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Rumania, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Uruguay.

We should select these countries for future conferences in order to guarantee the participation of those who are infected and who do need the participation the most!

The results of the survey are available at the booth stand of the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe. A full overview of regulations is available in French and German under www.aidsnet.ch/immigration/d (German) and www.aidsnet/ch/immigration/f (French). An English version will be available soon.

Key Correspondent Health & Development Networks AIDS2002 Conference ~ Email: correspondents@hdnet.org Web: http://www.hdnet.org


ACT UP/Paris

Tomorrow, the European-Union is supposed to elaborate a global agreement about immigration and asylum issues. Act Up-Paris denounces the priority E.U. attaches to the only objectives of "security" and "immigration control", whereas it is supposed to guarantee foreigners, among others those who are affected by serious pathologies, the elementary rights.

Within European Union, only one country (France) has adopted laws in order to protect affected foreigners from expulsion and to permit them to stay and access to cares -- articles 25-8 and 12bis-11 in the edict of 2/11/45. And yet, even in France, this elementary right is thrown back into question by the non respect of these laws as several recent affairs show it.

If an "harmonisation" of the laws has to be settled, then European-Union must do it notably by assuring affected foreigners the unconditional inexpulsion and the right to stay in Europe as in France.

At the same time, European-Union must accelerate the grant of compulsory licences and the parallel importations and must help the access to generic drugs in countries which need it. European-Union has the power to do it. They doesn't do it.

Consequently, we won't let Aznar, Blair, Raffarin or others despise affected people by hiding away in a miserly protectionism, fed by the amalgame between insecurity and immigration.

Press contact : Julien DEVÉMY - (00 33) 1 49 29 44 75

The Height of the protectionism : we learn today that Spain refuses to grant visas to several participants from many "developing countries" who are supposed to attend the XIVth International Aids Conference in Barcelona. A really nice way for Spain to end its 6 months Presidency of E.U.





see also: The United States' HIV Exclusionary Policies



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