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ANTI-RACISM campaigners demanded today that the NHS surcharge be scrapped for all migrants after the government U-turned on its policy of charging migrant healthcare staff.
Labour MPs including Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy joined Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) in welcoming PM Boris Johnson’s policy reversal — made on Thursday under pressure from campaigners and Labour and Tory MPs.
The current fee is £400 per year per person and is set to rise to £624 in October.
The decision to stop charging healthcare workers migrating from outside the European Economic Area was announced soon after Tory peer and former party chairman Lord Patten had branded the government’s position “appalling” and “immoral.”
Public administration and constitutional affairs committee chairman William Wragg had also demanded an urgent change in policy.
Ms Abbott said the government’s “full-scale U-turn” shows “exactly what can be achieved if we are determined to fight.”
“Now we must step up pressure to remove the surcharge completely. No-one should pay twice for NHS access. No-one should be treated like a second-class citizen,” she said.
SUTR co-covenor Sabby Dhalu said the surcharge must now be scrapped for all migrant workers and their families — who already pay into the NHS through national insurance and tax contributions.
Streatham MP Ms Ribeiro-Addy called for a total end to the Tory government’s hostile-environment policy.
“The 2014 Immigration Act brought in the NHS surcharge, sparked the hostile environment, the Windrush Scandal that devastated many Caribbean families,” she said.
“The current immigration Bill extends the hostile environment to EU nationals. Both must be scrapped.
“We need a fair immigration policy that does not retrospectively remove migrants’ rights, that benefits our economy, upholds human rights and ends the hostile environment.”
The scrapping of the levy was welcomed by the Indian Workers’ Association GB.
The group called on ministers to “show an equal gesture in scrapping the NHS levy to all other immigrants” as well as Home Office fees for visas, visa extensions and applications for residency permits, which can be £3,000 per person.
“The Home Office made £500 million profit in 2018 alone from the misery of the migrant workers. That is scandalous,” the association said.
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