Details of the UK visa status of immigrant NHS patients will stop being passed to the Home Office, after a controversial agreement was scrapped. Campaigners, The Migrants’ Rights Network and Liberty, said a recent legal challenge to end the contentious agreement between the NHS and the Home Office was a success.
Sanwar Ali workpermit.com comment:
There are insufficient safeguards and there will continue to be scandals. There have been no assurances that an organisation sponsored by the Home Office which is supposed to be independent will stop acting against the interests of immigrants. Another concern is a widespread problem where some officials seem to consider it acceptable to knowingly make false and untrue statements in Court proceedings relating to immigration matters. There must be a considerable number of cases where the Judgement would be different if truthful statements had been made.
A joint press release issued by the two campaign groups, stated: ‘Under pressure to withdraw this discriminatory agreement, in May 2018, the government agreed to its suspension, saying that information should only be passed on if a person has committed a serious crime.’
The press release went on to say that the legal challenge was formally placed on hold while the agreement between the Home Office and the NHS was amended. However, in early November, NHS Digital confirmed that the controversial arrangement was ended.
Memorandum of understanding on UK Visa status
In accordance with a memorandum of understanding that existed between the Home Office and the NHS, the government agency had been permitted to access ‘non-clinical’ information held by NHS Digital, about hospitalised immigrants.
The purpose of the agreement was to allow the Home Office to track down UK immigration offenders that had eluded immigration enforcement, under sections 24 or 24A of the Immigration Act 1971. NHS Digital agreed to cooperate subject to various conditions, providing information that included last known address and GP areas code.
It’s understood that the memorandum contained certain provisions, including the Home Office and NHS agreeing to share the costs of a legal challenge and how they should each respond to the media if the agreement came to light.
The Migrants’ Rights Network and Liberty claim that these provisions indicate that the departments involved knew that the agreement would create controversy.
Judicial review of UK Visa data sharing
In March 2018, the High Court granted permission for a judicial review challenge. Lawyers working on the case, said: “This secret data-sharing deal undermined every principle our health service is built on, showing contempt for confidentiality and forcing people to choose between self-medicating and detention and possible deportation.”
Following the success of the legal challenge, lawyers said: “This stand-down by the government is a huge victory for everyone who believes we should be able to access healthcare safely – and particularly for doctors and nurses who had become complicit in the government’s hostile environment against their will. This triumph shows that if we stand up to xenophobic policies, we can and will dismantle them.”
Home Office seeking a replacement agreement
However, despite the withdrawal of the agreement, a Home Office spokesperson said that the government agency plans to strike a new deal with NHS Digital. The spokesperson said: “The Home Office and NHS Digital are collaborating on a new memorandum of understanding.”
“The Home Office will seek to continue making requests for non-medical information about those facing deportation action because they have committed serious crimes, or where information is necessary to protect someone’s welfare,” the spokesperson added.
It’s understood that the new agreement currently being worked on will continue to allow the Home Office to access NHS Digital data upon request. The government agency is interested in information on patients who are facing deportation from the UK for serious criminal offences and those where information is necessary to protect their welfare.
MPs reporting illegal immigrants to the Home Office
Details of this controversial agreement came to light after it emerged that MPs have reported more than 700 illegal immigrants to the Home Office. Meanwhile, the government agency’s integrity has once again been called to question, when reports emerged that many UK visa refusal decisions are quickly overturned when exposed by the media.
Syrian school boy attack in Huddersfield
The UK government’s hostile immigration policy is reportedly causing a toxic environment for the country’s immigrant community as Brexit looms. Recently, a video emerged of a Syrian refugee who was attacked at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield.
The 15-year-old was the victim of a waterboarding attack by a teenager from a family with convictions for far-right offences.
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