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Hostile environment could continue to discourage migrants from accessing healthcare during the pandemic

Charities have warned that the Home Office’s hostile environment policy could discourage undocumented migrants from getting vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as accessing other support during the pandemic.

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    Hostile environment could continue to discourage migrants from accessing healthcare during the pandemic

    The government announced today that COVID-19 vaccines would be made available free of charge for undocumented migrants, without having to undergo any immigration checks. Despite this, charities have warned that hostile environment policies will continue to discourage migrants without an immigration status from accessing healthcare during the pandemic.

    The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants have claimed that many migrants would be fearful of seeking healthcare for fear of having their status’s checked. In March, they wrote to the Home Office to demanding the Home Office to make changes that would save the lived on undocumented migrants during the pandemic.

    Last month they wrote another letter calling for urgent action to prioritize public health of anti-immigrant policy. They identified several issues that meant that undocumented migrants were being prevented from accessing health care, including vaccinations, and demanded that the Home Office made several changed. These included:

    • Immediately suspending all NHS Charging and data-sharing with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement.
    • Immediately suspend ‘no recourse to public funds’ conditions to ensure that everyone can access the support they need to stay safe.
    • Ensure that migrants self-isolating will not be penalised for being unable to attend reporting appointments, court dates, or interviews.
    • Extend or modify visas where necessary to prevent people being forced to ‘overstay’ their visa due to being self-isolated.
    • Release everyone detained under immigration powers to reduce the risk of COVID19 entering the detention estate.
    • Provide specialist support for those housed in shared asylum accommodation to enable safe access to medical services and testing

    The letter stated:

    “These issues continue to be a barrier to receiving healthcare and to effective self-isolation, place many migrants at high risk of contracting COVID-19, and are pushing migrant families into destitution. The effects of not introducing these measures have been acute. At a time when it is vital that we all work together to tackle the pandemic, and that as many people as possible are protected, we urge the Government to take comprehensive action.”

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    Offering the vaccine to undocumented migrants will not reverse the effects of the hostile environment: (Unsplash)