The Justice for Omisha campaign wins the SMK ‘David & Goliath’ award!

This blog was guest written by Reeja Shrestha for Migrants Organise. Reeja is a member of Migrants Organise and campaigner with the Justice for Omisha campaign and Patients Not Passports.

We are very excited to announce that the ‘Justice for Omisha’ campaign WON the ‘David & Goliath’ award at the SMK National Campaigner Awards 2024!

We want to thank the SMK Foundation for nominating us and allowing our small campaign to receive such an important award on a bigger platform. This is not just an award for us; this is a boost and an encouragement for us to keep going and fight against the unjust system of NHS charging for migrants.

During the awards ceremony on 15th May, while talking to other campaigners, I came to realise that most people are unaware of the system of charging migrants for healthcare, which is a part of the wider Hostile Environment for migrants and refugees. This lack of awareness in society has hit me deeply and motivated me to grow the campaign even more to raise awareness about the root issue. 

Visual art by Tenley Tomlinson @tenleyjournals

Many people are affected by the NHS system of discriminating against people based on whether they are entitled to free healthcare because of their immigration status. When people are charged huge bills, they stop going for treatment. It not only affects their health, but they can even die from it.

The cost of treatment is very expensive – it is charged at 150% of the cost of care. When bills pile up, the hospital warns you of sending debt collectors to your home, and that they will report the debt to the Home Office which can impact your future visa applications. 

On the other hand, even the hospitals are unable to recover debt from the patients, because so many people are unable to pay. Many people are not allowed to work under the Hostile Environment system, or have No Recourse to Public Funds and so struggle to make ends meet for their families. So it is more costly for the NHS to chase the debts – they have to hire private debt agencies to recover the money and send letters. Most importantly, hospitals end up having to treat those patients in an emergency – rather than getting preventative treatment – which is a result of avoiding hospitals to receive further bills. 

This is the reason why it is important to raise awareness and campaign on a bigger platform – like we do with the Patients Not Passports campaign – so that the Government understands the impact of charging people for healthcare. It is not only the people who suffer, but is also hampering the NHS in the longer term. This is only possible when we come together and support a cause. 

Thank you to the SMK Foundation again for choosing us to receive the ‘David & Goliath’ award 2024. You have given us a drive to continue our fight to change the harsh law of the Hostile Environment, to stop the hospitals harassing people to recover debt, and make the NHS a universal healthcare system for all.

You can join our campaign by coming to our public meeting on 13th July, or find your nearest Patients Not Passports group here.