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We must #EndTheHostileEnvironment so everyone can access the Covid-19 vaccine safely

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

In the interests of human rights and the health and safety of the population, the Hostile Environment in the NHS must end. Temporary offers of safety are not enough to undo the decades of harm caused by policies that have embedded immigration controls into public services. We signed this call to the Department of Health and Social Care so everyone can access the Covid-19 vaccine safely, regardless of their immigration status. Very grateful to Cllr Dr Hosnieh Djafari Marbini and proud that Oxford City Council is only one of two councils to have joined.

“Coronavirus ‘amnesty’ to get undocumented migrants vaccinated will not be enough, ministers warned. Coalition of 140 organisations write to ministers urging concrete action to end 'hostile environment'.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/coronavirus-immigration-amnesty-vaccine-b1799280.html 


Full press release here below:

The Government must go further to ensure undocumented migrants come forward for the coronavirus vaccine, warn local authorities, GP surgeries, charities and public health institutions

      140 migrants rights’ charities, faith groups, local authorities, health institutions and trade unions have issued a statement to the Department of Health calling for an end to Hostile Environment immigration policies in the NHS so that all migrants can access the vaccine without fear.

      Signatories include: Oxford City Council, Haringey Council, six GP surgeries and primary care networks, the Faculty of Public Health, the Faculty of Homelessness and Inclusion Health, the Refugee Council, Doctors of the World, and over 120 migrants rights charities, faith institutions and civil society organisations.

Following today’s announcement that the Government will not check immigration status for undocumented migrants, charities and health groups have warned that these measures do not go far enough.

The statement calls for the Department of Health and Social Care to guarantee a firewall that prevents any patient information gathered by the NHS or Test and Trace being used for the purposes of immigration enforcement; and an end to all Hostile Environment measures in the NHS, including charging for migrants, to combat the fear and mistrust these policies have created.

The call was initiated by the Patients Not Passports campaign, including charities Medact, Migrants Organise, Doctors of the World, and Docs Not Cops.

CONTACT

Aliya Yule - 07960163915 - aliya@migrantsorganise.org

James Skinner - 07952915870 - jamesskinner@medact.org

QUOTES

James Skinner, former NHS Nurse and Programme Lead for Health and Human Rights, Medact, said:

“Today's announcement by the Government is a clear admission that the Hostile Environment is incompatible with public health. At the start of the pandemic we warned that the fear created by NHS charging and data sharing would prevent migrant communities accessing treatment for coronavirus, yet it has taken almost a year for the Government to even acknowledge the harm these policies are causing. It will be hard for anyone to trust these assurances from the Government while the rest of the NHS continues to charge people for care and share patient data with the Home Office.”

Aliya Yule, Access to Healthcare Organiser at Migrants Organise, said:

“The experiences of our members at Migrants Organise have shown that the Hostile Environment fosters a culture of discrimination in the NHS, and creates fear and mistrust. Temporary offers of safety are not enough to undo the decades of harm caused by structurally racist policies that have embedded immigration controls into vital public services. The only viable solution is the immediate repeal of all Hostile Environment policies and the creation of an NHS that truly lives up to the principle of universal access for all.”

Anna Miller, Doctors of the World UK Head of Policy and Advocacy, said:

“While we welcome the government proactively encouraging migrants to come forward to register with a GP and receive the vaccine, and GP practices to register patients, this exemption doesn’t go far enough to undo the fear and mistrust created by the hostile environment.

 

“The migrant charging policy has done great damage to the relationship between migrant communities and the NHS, creating a situation where patients don’t trust nurses and doctors and avoid healthcare services.

“All the evidence shows that removing charges and status checks for a specific health service is not enough to make sure people with insecure immigration status access that service. Primary care has always been free regardless of immigration status, yet most people without status are not registered with a GP. When rolling out the vaccine we really must learn the lessons from this.

The government also needs to do more to get the message to healthcare services. Doctors of the World is still seeing GP practices wrongly turning patients away because they can’t provide documentation, and NHS trusts trying to carry out immigration checks on people attending vaccination appointments.

Munya Radzi, founder of Regularise, said:

“In the last few weeks, several undocumented migrants have reported to Regularise that they haven’t been able to register with a GP, and that people are scared to come forward for the vaccine. The fear is still present even after the news that undocumented migrants will be included in the vaccination programme with people asking how they can trust the Home Office. Whilst it is important that the Government have acknowledged that undocumented migrants have been excluded, they must do more to ensure our communities are included and engaged with in a pro-active way in order to access the COVID-19 vaccination, and to ensure that people are not discriminated against when trying to access healthcare.”

George Miller, Public Health Registrar working for Public Health England, said:

“Being inappropriately asked to provide ID when registering with a GP is not the only barrier to accessing the vaccine. The Government needs to directly address the fear caused by the Hostile Environment in every aspect of the vaccine roll out, from work on vaccine hesitancy, to ensuring that people are not told to bring their ID or NHS number when they register.”

Andy Hewett, Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said:

“We are concerned that many people seeking asylum, currently being accommodated in hotels and other forms of short term accommodation, may not have been registered with a GP and may struggle to do so without support.  It’s imperative that the government put in place a mechanism to enable this group to access the vaccine.”

Susan Cueva of the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium, said:

"Although the Government have said they there will be no immigration checks for the Covid-19 vaccine, we still believe that information gathered in this process could be used by the Government to track and trace people who are undocumented with potential backlash later. People will still not trust the vaccine offer because of this. One of the solutions to the pandemic vaccination programme is to regularise the status of all undocumented migrants and those in legal process to keep us all safe.”

Dr Tony O’Sullivan, retired paediatrician and co-chair Keep Our NHS Public, said:

“There must be no barrier of fear from accessing Covid vaccinations and NHS treatment. In the interests of human rights, the health and safety of the population and undocumented people, the hostile environment in the NHS must go now, and access to vaccines is a huge step along this road.”

APPENDICES

  1. Full list of Signatories
  2. The Demands to DHSC

  1. Signatories:

  1. The Faculty of Homelessness and Inclusion Health
  2. The Faculty of Public Health
  3. Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership
  4. The Arch, Homelessness GP surgery
  5. The Corner Surgery
  6. Tower Hamlets CEPN (Community Education Provider Network)
  7. Tower Hamlets GP Care Group
  8. Townships Primary Care Network
  9. Haringey Council
  10. Oxford City Council
  11. The NRPF Network
  12. Asylum Welcome
  13. ATLEU (Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit)
  14. AVID (Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees)
  15. Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID)
  16. Birth Companions
  17. Birthrights
  18. Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition
  19. Bristol Defend the Asylum Seekers Campaign
  20. Bristol Project Mama
  21. Bristol Protect Our NHS
  22. Bristol Refugee Festival
  23. Bristol Refugee Rights
  24. Bristol Student Action for Refugees
  25. British HIV Association (BHIVA)
  26. CARAG – Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group
  27. Choose Love
  28. Citizens Advice Staffordshire North & Stoke-on-Trent
  29. City of Sanctuary - Birmingham
  30. City of Sanctuary Sheffield
  31. CRIBS International
  32. Daikon
  33. Defend Our NHS Wirral
  34. Docs Not Cops
  35. Doctors in Unite
  36. Doctors of the World
  37. Donate4Refugees
  38. DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts
  39. English for Action (EFA) London
  40. Every Doctor
  41. Freedom From Torture
  42. Friends of the Drop In for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (FODI)
  43. Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
  44. Good Chance Theatre
  45. Grassroots Black Left
  46. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
  47. Greater Manchester Law Centre
  48. Hackney Migrant Centre
  49. Haringey Welcome
  50. Hastings Community of Sanctuary
  51. Health Campaigns Together
  52. JCWI
  53. Kalayaan
  54. Kanlungan Filipino Consortium
  55. Keep Our NHS Public
  56. Lambeth Healthwatch
  57. Lancet Migration
  58. Latin American Women's Rights Service
  59. Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network
  60. Lewes Organisation in Support of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (LOSRAS) 
  61. Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network
  62. Liberty
  63. Liverpool Migrant Solidarity Campaign
  64. Manchester Refugee Support Network
  65. Maternity Action
  66. Medact
  67. Medact Dorset
  68. Medact Manchester
  69. Medact Oxford
  70. Medact Sheffield
  71. Médecins Sans Frontières UK Take Action Group
  72. Merseyside Pensioners Association
  73. Migrant English Project
  74. Migrants Organise
  75. Migrants' Rights Network
  76. NACCOM
  77. National Aids Trust
  78. New Economics Foundation
  79. NHS Staff Voices
  80. Nilaari Agency
  81. North of England Refugee Service
  82. Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum
  83. Nottingham HOST
  84. Notts Keep Our NHS Public
  85. Notts Stand Up to Racism
  86. Officers of The Socialist Health Association - Liverpool City Region
  87. Oxford Mutual Aid
  88. Pathway
  89. Patients Not Passports Birmingham
  90. PHM UK
  91. Polish Migrants Organise for Change (POMOC)
  92. Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS)
  93. Race & Health
  94. RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research)
  95. Refugee Council
  96. Refugee Resource
  97. Refugee Support Society
  98. Refugee Youth Service
  99. Regularise
  1. Right to Remain
  2. Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign
  3. Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital Campaign
  4. Sheffield Flourish
  5. Socialist Health Association London
  6. Solidarity Knows No Borders - Merseyside
  7. Southall Black Sisters
  8. Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers
  9. St. Augustine’s Centre
  10. STAR - Student Action for Refugees
  11. STARCH (South Tyneside Asylum Seekers and Refugee Church Help)
  12. Steve Owen
  13. Stockport Alliance for Equality (SAFE)
  14. Stockport Stand Up to Racism (SSUTR)
  15. Stockport United Against Austerity
  16. The Helen Bamber Foundation
  17. The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)
  18. The Refugee Buddy Project: Hastings, Rother & Wealden
  19. The Voice of Domestic Workers
  20. Voices in Exile
  21. Waltham Forest Citizens
  22. West London Welcome
  23. Zero Covid Campaign
  24. Chorlton Central Church
  25. Deep End Scotland
  26. Deep End Yorkshire & Humber
  27. Easton Jamia Mosque
  28. Fairhealth
  29. Faiths in Lambeth Together
  30. Gipsy Hill Labour Party
  31. Hastings & Rye Constituency Labour Party BAME Branch
  32. International Child Health Group
  33. Katherine Low Settlement
  34. KoniMusic
  35. Noor Ul Islam
  36. St Barnabas Church
  37. Stockton Baptist Church
  38. The Bristol Council of Mosques
  39. The Mary Thompson Fund
  40. Waltham Forest Council of Mosques
  41. Avon Fire Brigades Union
  42. East London Unite Community
  43. Liverpool TUC
  44. Manchester Trade Union Council
  45. Nurses United UK
  46. South West TUC
  47. Waltham Forest NEU
  1. Waltham Forest Trades Council
  2. Manuel Bravo Project
  3. The Royal College of Midwives North Bristol Branch

II. The Demands to DHSC

In order to address the coronavirus pandemic and strengthen public health efforts, the coronavirus vaccine must be safely accessible to everyone, regardless of immigration status, ID or proof of address.

The Government has stated that everyone is able to access the coronavirus vaccine, but in practice, people are being asked for ID, are unable to register with a GP, and are afraid to access services because of longstanding and entrenched barriers to healthcare.

Without further action, the pandemic will continue to have a disproportionate impact on all marginalised groups, including migrant communities, people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, and BME communities.

We therefore call on the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure the vaccine programme works for everyone, and seeks to address the specific barriers faced by these communities in line with calls from the JCVI.

The Department of Health and Social Care must:

  1. Guarantee a firewall that prevents any patient information gathered by the NHS or Test and Trace being used for the purposes of immigration enforcement.
  2. End all Hostile Environment measures in the NHS, including charging for migrants, to combat the fear and mistrust these policies have created.
  3. Provide specific support to all GP surgeries to register everyone, including undocumented and underdocumented migrants and those without secure accommodation, and ensure that all other routes to vaccination are accessible to everyone.
  4. Fund a public information campaign to ensure that communities impacted by the Hostile Environment are aware of their right to access the vaccine and the steps taken above.