Multi-agency letter calls on government to give free healthcare - Refugee Council
June 30, 2006

Multi-agency letter calls on government to give free healthcare

The Refugee Council’s call to the government to reinstate free secondary health care for rejected asylum seekers has been backed by several organisations from many sectors, including medical charities, unions and advisory bodies. See their open letter to the Secretary of State for Health, the Rt. Hon. Patricia Hewitt MP, here:

Rt. Hon. Patricia Hewitt MP,
Secretary of State for Health,
Department of Health,
Richmond House,
79 Whitehall,
London, SW1A 2NS

Dear Rt. Hon. Patricia Hewitt MP,

The NHS’ policy of charging overseas visitors for hospital care is having a devastating impact on asylum seekers whose claims have failed.

Since 2004, when the regulations were tightened, people with potentially fatal illnesses or chronic health problems and pregnant women have been turned away from the hospital door because they are unable to pay thousands of pounds to be treated. Cases have included a man with bowel cancer scheduled for an emergency operation which was cancelled when the hospital discovered his immigration status, and pregnant women who have given birth without medical care because they cannot pay for their child to be born safely.

The current legislation was brought in to combat health tourism. There is no evidence to suggest that asylum seekers come here for benefits of any kind. Claiming asylum is a fundamental human right: people who come here to ask for protection should be treated with respect and compassion, whatever the outcome of their asylum claim.

We the undersigned, call on you to reinstate free secondary health care for rejected asylum seekers, and to review the impact of the charging regulations as a whole. This policy runs counter to the principles that underpin both the NHS and the medical profession.

Yours truly,

Maeve Sherlock
Chief Executive
Refugee Council

David Rowlands
Chief Executive
Welsh Refugee Council

Louise Zanre
Country Director
Jesuit Refugee Service

Habib Rahman,
Chief Executive
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

Niall Cooper
National Coordinator
Church Action on Poverty

Pauline Doyle
Head of Campaigns
Transport and General Workers Union

Annie Ledger
Chief Executive
Migrant Helpline

Marion Birch
Executive Director
Medact

David Harker
Chief Executive
Citizens Advice

Nick Partridge,
Chief Executive,
Terrence Higgins Trust

Deborah Jack
Chief Executive
National Aids Trust

Bob Reitemeier
Chair
The Children’s Society

Chris Randall, Chair
Immigration Law Practitioners Association

Jan Shaw
Refugee Programme Director
Amnesty International UK

Maurice Wren
Chair
Asylum Rights Campaign &
Director
Asylum Aid

Ends

For further information and interviews contact press office: Chris Pitt 0207 346 1213 (Switchboard: 0207 346 6700). For urgent or out of hours inquiries ring 0870 0555500 and ask for pager 865169.

Further information

Download the report: First do no harm: denying healthcare to people whose asylum claims have failed (June 2006)

Read our press release: Policy that denies healthcare must end, says Refugee Council