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Hostile Environment: Fear is stopping migrants getting the Covid-19 vaccine jab, research suggests

by Bethany Rielly

MORE than 80 per cent of undocumented migrants are too fearful to access the Covid-19 vaccine due to NHS charges and data sharing with the Home Office, new research suggests. 

The government stressed today that everyone, regardless of their immigration status, will be offered the vaccine without any checks on their right to be in the country. 

But campaigners have warned that reassuring people is not enough to ensure that they feel confident to access healthcare without facing repercussions from immigration enforcement. 

A new study of 310 people by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) found that 43 per cent of migrants surveyed said they were too scared to get the vaccine. 

The survey also showed that the more precarious a person’s immigration status, the more likely they were to report being too afraid to access healthcare. 

Of those with indefinite leave to remain, 17 per cent said they would be scared to access healthcare compared with 81 per cent of those without any form of status. 

More than half of people with refugee status (56 per cent) also said they would be too scared to get the jab due to data sharing, even though they are entitled to healthcare. 

JCWI’s chief executive Satbir Singh said: “The government has a very poor record in building trust with migrant, refugee and BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] communities. 

“Today’s move to reassure them is not enough. As long as the hostile-environment policies that underpin rules around migrants using the NHS remain in place, people will still be fearful. 

“For the sake of everyone’s health, the hostile environment must be immediately scrapped.”

As part of the government’s hostile-environment policies to curb immigration, certain groups of migrants must pay up-front charges for treatment and are subjected to checks. 

Detention Action director Bella Sankey said: “It is essential for all our health that everyone is able to access vaccines easily and without fear of punishment.

“But this will only work if the Home Office immediately legislates to end all data-sharing with doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers. Without this guarantee, mistrust will prevent vaccine uptake, which will harm us all.”

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