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ss triple helix - Spring 2022,  Nationalities and Borders Bill: charging vulnerable asylum seekers for basic healthcare

Nationalities and Borders Bill: charging vulnerable asylum seekers for basic healthcare

The Nationality and Borders Bill [1] currently passing through both Houses of Parliament is promoted as a means of stopping small boats from crossing the channel and of breaking up the gangs of people smugglers. The Bill also contains clauses to create prison-like conditions for asylum seekers, holding them away from welcoming communities and with poor healthcare access. There will also be cuts to Legal Aid, making it difficult to present an accurate case. The opportunity for family reunions will also be reduced, leaving some partners and children unable to join them. [2]

Since 2015, the NHS in England (but not in the other British nations) has charged asylum seekers with no leave to remain for all but treatment in A&E, for listed infectious diseases, conditions related to torture, domestic and sexual violence, and female genital mutilation. [3] For all other treatments, they are charged as overseas visitors at 150 per cent of cost. These are vulnerable people who have escaped from war zones and persecution through dangerous and arduous conditions and who have no recourse to public funds nor the right to work.

CMF has long argued that these measures are unjust, carry public health risks, and violate a Christian ethos of welcome and care for the stranger. Many of the concerns that have spurred this legislation are spurious. [4] This new bill brings in further measures that will make an already desperate situation immeasurably worse for many.

At the time of writing, over two million refugees have fled the war in Ukraine, mostly to EU and other adjacent nations. [5] This number could well reach six or seven million in the coming months. We hope many of those will be welcomed into the UK. Yet, in recent years, we have not extended much of a welcome to those fleeing war, persecution, and poverty from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

CMF's Global Advocacy Group has written a briefing, blogs, [6] a podcast, and a letter to the Home Secretary, challenging the Bill and current policy. We have also produced a resource to help you write to your MP about the Nationality and Borders Bill, [7] and have signed a joint faith leaders' letter to the Government. [8] There is still time to encourage our leaders to welcome the stranger and the refugee by ensuring their access to NHS treatment.

References
references accessed 8/3/2022
  1. Nationality and Borders Bill. House of Commons. 2021-2022. bit.ly/3MkQC6t
  2. Hooper M. I was a foreigner, and you did not welcome me in: the challenge of the Nationality and Borders Bill. CMF Blogs. 7 February 2022. cmf.li/337JWqI
  3. Mcfarlane B. Brief on healthcare charging in the UK for people with insecure immigration status. CMF Briefing Papers. May 2021. cmf.li/3soX04V
  4. Asylum in the UK. UNHCR. bit.ly/3MBxjWz
  5. Operational Data Portal: Ukraine Refugee Situation. UNHCR. 8 March 2022. bit.ly/3CsBLCn
  6. Refugee health. CMF Blogs. October 2017 & February 2022. cmf.li/3HHB0GJ
  7. Suggested points for letter to MP. CMF Briefing Papers. May 2021. cmf.li/3Hg8pIi
  8. Faith leaders letter on the Nationality and Borders Bill. Joint Public Issues Team. 28 February 2022. bit.ly/3tMnqwW
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