Intended for healthcare professionals


Why failed asylum seekers must not be denied access to the NHS

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 29 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:298
  1. Paul D Williams, general practitioner (
  1. Arrival, the general practice for new refugees in Stockton-on-Tees

    The UK government is consulting on implementing proposals to exclude overseas visitors from eligibility for free primary care ( Recently published rules state that failed asylum seekers are not entitled to free nonurgent primary or secondary care from the day their asylum claim failed.

    Failed asylum seekers are not bogus asylum seekers. Of 58 475 decisions on asylum made by the Home Office in 2003-4, 87% were refused. Most people appeal, and of 79 385 appeals received, 21% were accepted, leaving 60 000 failed asylum seekers. Although some of these people may not be in need of protection, many certainly are but are unable to establish to a “reasonable degree of likelihood” that they would suffer persecution if returned to their country. Amnesty International recently criticised decisions made on “inaccurate information, unreasoned decisions about credibility and a failure to properly consider complex torture cases.”

    It is unethical to refuse to provide care for some of the most vulnerable people in society

    Most of the people refused asylum in 2003-4 were not removed, including more than 4000 Sri Lankans, 4000 Iraqis, 3500 Afghans, 3000 Turkish people, 3000 …

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