Are Government immigration tactics scaring refugees away from vital medical treatment?

This is part of a blog series ahead of  the global Medact/IPPNW Health Through Peace conference in York. Click here to find out more about the event and register.

Earlier this year, the UK government and NHS digital struck a data-sharing deal that allows immigration officials to get hold of patients’ personal information in order to track down, arrest and deport migrants. Now, fear of deportation is keeping migrants from making crucial medical appointments. Doctors of the World’s UK clinics regularly report seeing people in urgent need, including pregnant women and cancer sufferers, who are afraid to otherwise see a doctor.

Refugees and undocumented migrants often receive less effective healthcare and face barriers when trying to access NHS care despite having serious multiple health needs. Such tactics have serious public health and human rights implications.

The data sharing deal has promoted intense debates and campaigns about the provision of healthcare as a fundamental human right, irrespective of immigration status. The impact data sharing has on vulnerable people’s lives became depressingly clear in the aftermath of the Grenfell tower disaster.

Volunteers on the ground reported that some survivors required urgent medical attention but were too scared of using the NHS due to the fear of being reported to the Home office. Rather than dispelling fears, the one-year amnesty offered by the Government, has increased suspicion and the threat of deportation. In response to the urgent need, Doctors of the World (DOTW) opened up a safe and confidential pop-up clinic for survivors.


Join us in York on Wednesday 6th September for a 90 minute training session facilitated by Anna Miller from DOTW, to learn more about entitlement to NHS care, barriers to accessing healthcare and the policy implications of restricting access to healthcare. Anna will also be discussing the role of healthcare professionals as advocates for access to healthcare.


This training module, is aimed at healthcare professionals working in the NHS, but is also relevant for those with an interest in health policy and human rights. Due to high demand, Anna will be running two sessions and delegates can choose from a morning (1100 – 1330) and an afternoon session (1530-1700).

Anna will also be part of a panel discussion (other speakers to be confirmed) from 1400-1500 which looks at the ways in which different European countries have responded to the healthcare needs of people on the move.

According to figures published by the UN, the number of refugees in the world has reached the highest level ever recorded – a record 65.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes. More than 100,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year alone.

The conference presents many other opportunities for those interested in the health and welfare of refugees. We have papers looking at the refugee ‘crisis’ from a European perspective, as well as narrative accounts from the Global South, including Syria, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Uganda.