News

Homeless Grenfell survivors afraid of deportation

Paying tribute to Grenfell Victims © ChiralJon, Creative Commons

 

Marco Biagini, July 11th 2017

Volunteers helping with the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire have reported that many of the survivors are afraid to seek housing, medical and legal help because they fear deportation.

Volunteer doctors and lawyers claim that many of the survivors of 14 June’s Grenfell Tower fire - which claimed at least 79 lives - are now avoiding coming forward to get NHS-provided aid.
 
It is not known whether some undocumented migrants, not added to the official death toll, may still be missing or whether they have failed to come forward due to fears that their details will be passed to the Home Office by support services.
 
In January 2017, the UK government and NHS Digital (where our patient information is stored) signed an agreement stating that the Home Office now has easier access to our “confidential” patient information to help them track down, arrest and deport migrants without full UK immigration status.
 
One of the volunteer doctors, Dr. Paquita de Zulueta, told the Guardian newspaper of a North African lady who fell down the tower’s stairwell whilst escaping the fire, hitting her head and losing consciousness for a few minutes. When Dr. de Zulueta discovered the woman had numerous signs of a potential brain injury, she told her to go to A&E.
“She was very reluctant,” she told the Guardian. “When I asked if she was frightened to go, she nodded. I told her there would be no repercussions and that she would be safe.”
 
Last month Theresa May said in a statement that Grenfell survivors would not be at risk of immigration checks while receiving vital medical treatment.
 
“We will not use this tragic incident as a reason to carry out immigration checks on those involved,” the prime minister said. “We will make sure that all victims, irrespective of their immigration status, will be able to access the services they need, including healthcare and accommodation.”
 
However the fear persists in migrant communities. People who do not have full UK immigration status are not allowed to work in the UK or access many services including the benefits system and free NHS health care.
 
Back in April, the Pavement reported that some leading homelessness charities in London were working with the Home Office to have rough sleepers deported for not having the correct immigration status. Migrant rights group claim this has led to a breakdown in trust towards many support services on offer to the Grenfell fire’s survivors.
 
Campaigners, including Anna Miller of Doctors of the World, have been attempting to overturn the deal made earlier this year between the Home Office and NHS Digital.
 
Anna’s petition was live before the Grenfell tower fire, but has gained a lot of momentum since the tragedy. As she writes on the 38 Degrees page: “Vulnerable, sick and injured people are not going to NHS hospitals and GP surgeries because they fear it could lead to their arrest – including most recently survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.
 
“Patient confidentiality is essential for NHS staff to be able to do their job – and yet there has been no consultation with NHS staff or the public about this deal. Concerns raised by medical organisations have been ignored and the agreement was made in secret.
 
“The deal makes some of the UK’s most vulnerable people scared of getting healthcare.”
 
In response Doctors of the World, which operates in disaster zones across the globe, has been forced to set up a clinic nearby to help homeless and injured Grenfell survivors.
 
Sign the petition here: http://tinyurl.com/m3xnaar

 
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