‘Since the surcharge was introduced in 2015 it has raised over £600m which the Department of Health and Social Care and the health ministries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have invested back into their health budgets…’
Increase to Immigration Health Surcharge is intended to ‘streamline and improve the cash – flow into the NHS from various sections of the immigrant population in the United Kingdom.
CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!//The NHS could receive an estimated £220 million in extra funding under plans put before parliament today to double the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
The IHS allows anyone in the UK on a work, study or family visa for longer than 6 months to access NHS services in the same way as UK citizens.
The proposals would see the surcharge increase from £200 to £400 per year for non-EU nationals, with students and those on the Youth Mobility Schemeon the discounted rate of £300 per year.
Since the surcharge was introduced in 2015 it has raised over £600m which the Department of Health and Social Care and the health ministries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have invested back into their health budgets.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said:
Our NHS is always there when you need it, paid for by British taxpayers. We welcome long-term migrants using the NHS, but the NHS is a national, not international health service and we believe it is right that they make a fair contribution to its long-term sustainability.
I am pleased that we are a step closer to implementing the changes to the health surcharge, and the extra money raised will go directly towards sustaining and protecting our world-class healthcare system.
It is only fair that people who come to the UK make a contribution to the running of the NHS, and even with the increase we still continue to offer a good deal on healthcare for those seeking to live in the UK temporarily.
The changes better reflect the cost to the NHS of treating those who pay the surcharge, as the DHSC estimates that the NHS spends £470 on average per person per year on treating those required to pay the surcharge.
These changes do not affect permanent residents, who are not required to pay the surcharge. Certain vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers and modern slavery victims are also exempt.
Short-term migrants, including those on visitor visas, are generally charged for secondary care treatment by the NHS at the point of access.
The increase is set to come into effect in December 2018 subject to Parliamentary approval.
Revealed – sick, tortured immigrants locked up for months in Britain – investigation suggests hundreds of vulnerable people are detained indefinitely; Diane Taylor and Niamh McIntyre
|AIWA! NO!|An unprecedented snapshot of migrants held in British detention centres found more than half of the sample were either suicidal, seriously ill or victims of torture, a Guardian investigation has established.
The survey of almost 200 detainees held in seven deportation centres in England as of 31 August showed almost 56% were defined as an “adult at risk”. Such individuals are only supposed to be detained in extreme cases, suggesting that Home Office guidelines on detention have been breached.
The survey – conducted in association with 11 law firms and charities that work with those facing deportation – also found that a third had dependent children in the UK, and 84% had not been told when they would be deported – implying open-ended incarceration.
Almost half the detainees had not committed a crime, but the average detainee in the sample had been imprisoned for four months. The majority had lived in the UK for five years or more and some had been in the country for more than 20 years.
The sample amounts to 8% of all those held in detention at the time of survey, according to the most recent Home Office figures. A Home Office spokesperson insisted detention was “an important part of the immigration system”, but said that it must be “fair, dignified and protect the most vulnerable”, adding that further improvements could still be made to the system.
While it is not sufficiently scientific to be extrapolated across the entire removal population, the survey suggests many hundreds of extremely vulnerable people are being held indefinitely, in one of the most severe manifestations of the Conservatives’ “hostile environment” policy.
Roland Adjovi a member of the UN Office of the Human Rights Commissioner’s arbitrary detention working group, said that states must ensure that detention ‘is truly a measure of last resort’
“Detention in the context of migration must be a measure of last resort,” he said. “Such detention can never be of unlimited duration and the national legislation must clearly prescribe the maximum permitted duration of detention.”
The former prisons and probation ombudsman Stephen Shaw,who has conducted two comprehensive reviews for the government into immigration detention, added: “Although the overall use of detention has fallen by one third in the last three years, far too many people are still being detained for long periods when there is no realistic prospect of their removal from the UK.”
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said: “This snapshot is truly shocking, but not entirely surprising.
“There have been repeated assurances that vulnerable people, victims of trafficking and children would not been detained. But this investigation shows that those assurances are worthless. People are even being detained even though there is no instruction for their removal. This is a scandalously inhumane and unjustifiable system.”
The government detains just over 25,000 people every year pending deportation, at an annual cost of £108m. The practice of indefinite incarceration has been criticised by high court judges, local authorities, parliamentary committees and the UN.
More than half of all detainees are in any case ultimately released back into British society, not deported. Some have taken legal action over their imprisonment. The Home Office’s latest annual report acknowledges that government has paid out £3m to 118 people unlawfully detained in the 2017/18 financial year.
The UK is the only country in Europe to detain people without a time limit. It was Guardian revelations about government’s removal targets which forced Amber Rudd to resign as home secretary in April. Detention centres are instrumental to that policy.
Eleven law firms and charities entered anonymised data on 188 people to build a snapshot of people in deportation centres on 31 August. The data included how long they were held, whether they were considered an adult at risk and whether they had been told when they would be deported.
The survey found:
Children were held in adult detention centres, while 30% of detainees had dependent children in the UK.
More than half were defined as an adult at risk due to being victims of torture, having suicidal thoughts or being unwell.
While the government claims detainees are held briefly before being deported, 84% had not been given removal directions.
Detainees came from 56 countries, most commonly Nigeria and Algeria.
An adult at risk should be given special protection because they are particularly vulnerable. They should not usually be imprisoned, though they can be if the Home Office believes they pose a risk to the public or have a history of non-compliance with immigration law.
Of those represented in the Guardian survey, 27% had been tortured, 24% had serious health conditions and 4% were at risk of suicide.
The survey found just over half of detainees had served a prison sentence.
Alieu, a refugee from Gambia who was tortured in his home country, says that seven years after being detained in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre, near Heathrow, he is still suffering trauma.
“I kept asking the Home Office: ‘Am I a criminal, am I a prisoner?’ I was locked up in a very small space and was too scared to sleep. I’m still scared of people in uniform. The trauma from being locked up in detention after I’d already experienced torture will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
The investigation also uncovered multiple cases of children being held in the adult estate,despite this being banned in all but exceptional circumstances. Almost a third of adult detainees had dependent children in the UK, prompting concerns their removal would lead to families being separated.
Bail for Immigration Detainees, a charity that assists with detainees’ bail applications, condemned such separations, saying it causes children extreme distress.
“Many of our clients’ children have lost weight, suffered from recurring nightmares and experienced insomnia during their parents’ enforced absence,” said Celia Clarke, director of BID.
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, deplored the fact that the vast majority of detainees face open-ended imprisonment, adding: “That lack of an end date is causing serious harm, not only to those detained but also to their loved ones.”
Migration Watch, which monitors migration into the UK and has called for the detention estate to be expanded, said: “If people are here legally and they are being detained that’s a serious flaw in the system. It goes without saying that people who are here legally should not be detained.”
James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance expressed concern about the cost of detention: “Detention should only be used when there is a high chance of returning the individual in a short space of time, because a bureaucratic and lengthy wait is bad for the welfare of those detained, as well as costing taxpayers and meaning less money for essential services.”
The Home Office spokesman said: “We have made significant improvements to our approach in recent years, but it is clear we can go further.
“The home secretary has made clear that he is committed to going further and faster to explore alternatives to detention, increase transparency around immigration detention, further improve the support available for vulnerable detainees and initiate a new drive on detainee dignity.”
The Guardian sent a series of questions to 15 organisations who work with detainees – law firms with Home Office contracts to represent detainees and specialist NGOs. We received responses from 11.
Our partner organisations provided anonymised data about a series of key metrics, including age, length of residence and family ties in the UK, length of detention and specific vulnerabilities.
We asked them to enter data about their entire client list on a single day, 31 August, but some did not have the resources to capture every detainee on their books.
After excluding a handful of potential double counts where an NGO and a law firm may have been working with the same detainee, we were left with 188 unique responses.
We then calculated the proportion of the group with certain characteristics, such as suicidal tendencies, dependent children and long-term residency.
The data should be treated as a snapshot and not as a sample representative of the whole population in immigration detention. Many detainees never have contact with any legal representative or NGO, and will not have been captured in our sample.
• In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
It added that the decision was taken “in the best interests” of customers and staff, and deportations would not take place on any of its lines.
The decision follows months of pressure on the government over the Windrush scandal, which saw people who arrived in Britain legally decades ago threatened with deportation because they lacked proof of their status.
The controversy cost former home secretary Amber Rudd her job in April.
Her successor, Sajid Javid, later promised to do the “right” thing with regards to the Windrush generation of Commonwealth citizens who had been caught up in the government’s so-called “hostile environment” immigration policy.
A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman told The Independent: “We’ve made the decision to end all involuntary deportations on our network, and have already informed the Home Office. We believe this decision is in the best interest of our customers and people.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on operational matters.”
Mr Javid revealed last month that up to 63 people from the Windrush group may have been wrongly deported despite having lived in the UK legally for decades.
This week a damning parliamentary report found immigration officials used detention powers “unlawfully and inappropriately” in relation to members of the group.
MPs and peers on the joint committee on human rights said the treatment had been “shocking”, and dismissed the department’s claims the failings were down to individual errors.
A “fundamental change in the law, culture and procedures” was needed to ensure human rights were properly protected, their report found.
After the report’s publication, the Home Office said: “Our priority is to ensure that those who have struggled to demonstrate their right to be here are supported to do so and we have issued more than 2,000 documents confirming people’s settled status.
“But we know that it is equally important that we ensure that nothing like this can happen again. That is why we are carrying out historical reviews of detention and removals and have commissioned an independent lessons learned review.”
“I had to abandon my university dreams and focus on resolving my immigration status. I am only 23, but I stand with the Windrush generation because I know what it’s like to suddenly feel unwelcome and unwanted in the country where you’ve lived most of your life, and which you thought was your home.
It was only then that I realised that my immigration status meant I would not be able to take up my place. I contacted the charity Just for Kids Law with a few questions about the Ucas process, but it became clear that my situation was far more complicated than I first imagined. I spent the next few weeks in complete shock. I discovered that, rather than having “unsettled” status in the country I call my home, I had no “lawful” status at all. I made numerous phone calls to the Home Office, and was initially told that my family had a valid application and that our documents would be with us in a few weeks.
But this didn’t turn out to be the case. I was in the Just for Kids Law offices, desperate to take up my place at university, when I made the final call. I remember listening to the woman on the other end of the phone tell me that, despite what I had previously been informed, I had no status nor an active application at all. I went numb.
I had to abandon my university dreams and focus on resolving my immigration status. It took a long time and it was not a pleasant experience for a teenager to navigate, even with the support I had. I raised funds to pay the Home Office fees and found pro bono legal support. Since 2013, there has been no legal aid for this type of immigration case, even for children. I got my limited leave to remain in early 2014, but soon learned that I still would not be eligible for student finance and would be treated as an international student. I saw my whole world crumbling around me again. I’d watched all my friends go off to university, leaving me behind, but had refused to let them know about my situation. I felt too ashamed.
This is why I founded Let Us Learn. I realised there would be many others like me in the same situation, and I wanted to highlight what was happening to a generation of smart, ambitious young people. I also wanted to bring young migrants like myself together, to share our stories with each other and show that we had nothing to be ashamed of, and that we are not alone in our struggles. Our campaign group includes aspiring lawyers, doctors, scientists and astronauts, as well as people who want a career without going to university.
We initially campaigned on access to university for young migrants, and helped to change the student finance rules so that many more young people like us can go to university. We also had success in lobbying universities with our #younggiftedandblocked campaign to establish scholarship schemes for those who are still not eligible for student loans, like the one that enabled me to take up my place at LSE.
But more recently we have realised that, as important as education is to all of us, there is a much greater risk to our safety and wellbeing. The “hostile environment” is having devastating consequences on our friends and families.
For Let Us Learners, the issue that most urgently needs addressing is the extortionate cost of the Home Office applications we must regularly make in order to maintain our “lawful” status. Including the NHS surcharge, we will soon have to pay £2,033 to maintain our status. This is an increase of 238% from when I first applied as an 18-year-old, in 2014, and this does not even include any legal fees. We have to do this every two and a half years for 10 years, at a total cost of over £10,000, or we become “illegal”. This is not affordable, this is not a fair system. We have members who simply cannot afford to maintain their status. We know parents who have had to choose between one child and another. Whose status will be maintained? Who will have to become “illegal”?
Mental health is a serious and constant concern among our members, who live in constant fear of losing their status. Because losing one’s status after fighting so hard to get it is to lose everything. The ability to work, study, rent, hold a bank account, contribute, feel safe.
The hostile environment and these fees are making it impossible for young migrants like us who have grown up in this country to lead normal lives. We want to work with the government to create a route to British citizenship that is just, simple and affordable so it allows us to contribute all that we want to give to this country.
• Chrisann Jarrett is co-founder of Let Us Learn, a project led by young migrants and based at the charity Just for Kids Law