The letter follows a number of tragic cases that have come to light in the last month of undocumented migrants dying from COVID-19 because they are too afraid to seek medical help.
Fear of being deported
The cases highlight migrants’ fear of being deported or evicted if their immigration status is revealed once they seek medical assistance.
Campaigners have highlighted the case of a Filipino man, known only as Elvis, who died last week from suspected coronavirus after not accessing healthcare for fears of being reported to the Home Office.
Elvis, who had lived and worked in the UK as a cleaner for ten years, had suffered from a cough and a fever for two weeks.
His wife, also an undocumented migrants is reported to be suffering from similar symptoms but is also afraid to access healthcare.
Hostile environment policies
The current system NHS charging policy, introduced in 2018 as part of the “hostile environment” policies requires hospital staff to demand proof of entitlement to free healthcare.
MPs and campaigners who signed the letter say that the hostile environment policies that led to the Windrush Scandal are also undermining government efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.
The letter also follows calls from the British Medical Association, the World Health Organisation, and the United Nations Human Rights Council, for the UK government to ensure that the health of migrants is protected during the coronavirus crisis.
Access to healthcare
One of those who co-ordinated the letter, Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro Addy, said: “I am pleased to be standing with colleagues to protect the rights of migrants and ensure that everybody has access to the healthcare they need during the pandemic.
“The government must listen to frontline health workers and medical organisations calling for immediate action to stop people being deterred from healthcare.”
Addy continued: “The NHS was founded on the idea that healthcare should be available to all who need it, regardless of where they’re from or their ability to pay. The government’s hostile approach to migrants goes against these founding principles.
‘NHS care without fear’
“The government must listen to doctors and ensure that migrants access NHS care without fear.”
Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse said: “It is well documented that charging deters migrants from seeking healthcare. At the best of times that’s unfair. In a pandemic, it’s a disaster for them, their family, and their community.
“If the government is truly committed to tackling coronavirus it would end the Hostile Environment in the NHS.”
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