As the Covid-19 vaccination effort continues nationwide, we are working to ensure that all of the people we support in Bristol can access a vaccine.
This includes supporting those who have had to self-isolate because of positive tests with food and supplies, and distributing guidance on how to register with a GP to people in emergency and temporary accommodation in English, Polish, Romanian, and Arabic.
Today, Caring in Bristol is joining 140 organisations including Doctors of the World, Faculty of Public Health, and Migrants Organise in calling on the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that the vaccine is safely available to everyone, regardless of their immigration status, ID, or proof of address.
Covid-19 presents a high degree of danger to people experiencing homelessness, who are more likely to have chronic health conditions than those with secure housing. People experiencing homelessness who are migrants, especially those who are undocumented or under-documented are particularly at risk.
This is as a result of the government’s Hostile Environment policy – specifically rules around data sharing, where NHS England is legally compelled to share patient data with the Home Office for the purpose of immigration enforcement, and the policy of charging people who are not “ordinarily resident” in the UK – both of which work to deter people from seeking medical care, endangering their health and in the context of a highly transmissible virus like Covid-19, the health of those they come into contact with.
The government has stated that “coronavirus vaccines will be offered to everyone living in the UK free of charge, regardless of immigration status,” but due to the Hostile Environment many people are understandably afraid to seek access to them.
Along with the other signatories, we are calling on the Department of Health and Social Care to:
- Guarantee a firewall that prevents any patient information gathered by the NHS or Test and Trace being used for the purposes of immigration enforcement.
- End all Hostile Environment measures in the NHS, including charging for migrants, to combat the fear and mistrust these policies have created.
- Provide specific support to all GP surgeries to register everyone, including undocumented and under-documented migrants and those without secure accommodation, and ensure that all other routes to vaccination are accessible to everyone.
- Fund a public information campaign to ensure that communities impacted by the Hostile Environment are aware of their right to access the vaccine and the steps taken above.
The Hostile Environment policy is harmful to public health and to the wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable people living in Bristol.
If the Department of Social Health is serious about eradicating coronavirus in all communities, it is imperative that they respond to this call.
What you can do
Write to your local MP about the above demands using WriteToThem and ask them to represent your concerns in parliament.
Stay informed – follow organisations like Medact, Patients not Passports, and Migrants Organise for updates on this campaign. Maya Goodfellow’s book Hostile Environment is an excellent insight into the history of the UK’s immigration system from the 1960s until present day.
Share this post on your social media channels using the hashtag #VaccinesForAll to help raise awareness of how the Hostile Environment puts people experiencing homelessness at additional risk from the pandemic.