Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Immigration Police State

Immigrants are being “driven underground” by the legislation.

One domestic worker died because she was too afraid to see a doctor out of fear that her immigration status would be shared with the Home Office. The coordinator for charity Voices of Domestic Worker, Marissa Begonia, told the committee most of the women she works with choose not to access the NHS when they have medical problems. Campaign groups have argued the data-sharing arrangement violates patient's’ right to privacy under the Human Rights Act and that it cannot pass the considerable public interest test required to breach the doctor-patient relationship. 

The Department of Health reported that the Home Office made 8,127 requests for data in the first 11 months of 2016, which led to 5,854 people being traced by immigration enforcement teams. But figures show that less than 3 per cent of these led to a change of action by the Home Office. 

Doctors of the World, which runs clinics for undocumented migrants, victims of trafficking and asylum seekers, has also publicly condemned the data-sharing legislation, urging that it requires them to act as “border guards” for the Home Office’s immigration enforcement.

Dr Lucinda Hiam said an Eritrean woman who had been kept as a slave and subjected to sexual violence for seven years in the UK had not felt able to go to her GP.  

Citing evidence showed that a third of vulnerable migrants requiring medical treatment, such as those who are pregnant or seriously ill, had been deterred from seeking timely healthcare over concerns their information would be shared with the Home Office she said, "Confidentially is the cornerstone of the doctor/patient relationship. With that broken, I don’t think you can continue to have such a good relationship. I don’t think it has considered enough the damages to public trust it has done.”

Yusef Azad, director of strategy at National AIDS Trust, told the Committee the data-sharing requirement put GPs in a” very difficult position”. He said: “Patients believe doctors will look after their data and keep it confidential. Few people would argue that in cases of rape murder of manslaughter it wouldn’t be right to pass the information on, but as soon as you apply it to immigration offences you get different points of view and you lose the trust in the NHS – it’s a very dangerous direction of travel."

Dr Joanne Bailey, member of the advisory panel for the National Data Guardian, said,  “All the public guidance makes it clear that all data held by doctors and the health service is held with duty of confidence and that informs public expectations. It’s longstanding that it is confidential data. The weighting is not being balanced correctly between the immigration control and trust in the public health service.”

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