The Catholic Church has warned that the Immigration Bill risks leaving vulnerable people unable to access healthcare or find housing. The Immigration Bill, which is due to come before the House of Commons again tomorrow (30 January 2014), proposes to restrict migrants’ access to free NHS services and will require landlords to conduct checks on tenants’ immigration status.
Commenting on the proposed NHS charging system, Bishop Patrick Lynch, Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark and Chair of the Office of Migration Policy said: “We have grave fears that these proposals will deter vulnerable individuals from accessing vital healthcare services. We are especially concerned that the prospect of charging, may mean that pregnant women fail to seek medical assistance throughout their pregnancy and attempt to cope alone, potentially risking the health of both mother and child. It is also deeply worrying that children of migrants have not been exempted from these plans”
“Similarly, it is vital that victims of human trafficking, female genital mutilation and domestic abuse are not denied medical treatment as a result of misidentification, delays in identification or because they feel discouraged to seek assistance. Victims of these horrific abuses are often reluctant to seek help in the first place and it is therefore essential that robust safeguards are in place”
Bishop Patrick Lynch and Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) have also previously voiced concerns that the proposed checking and penalty system for rented accommodation could lead to an increase in homelessness.
Emphasising these concerns, Helen O’Brien, Chief Executive of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) added: “We are anxious to ensure that vulnerable individuals are not put at risk of harm as a result of their legal status”
“We fear that the requirement for landlords to conduct checks on a potential tenant’s immigration status may discourage owners from renting to migrants and increase homelessness levels. We are also keen to ensure that strong protections are in place for children of migrants, pregnant women and victims of trafficking and domestic abuse needing to access essential healthcare services”