Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Asylum seekers ruling is necessary

I feel that the recent ruling by the Health Minister Edwina Hart to allow unsuccesful asylum seekers access to free healthcare is both necessary and progressive. Helping disadvantaged people in this case is a very brave thing to do, especially when the political debate around the issue will predictably be dominated by misguided and prejudiced fears about "health tourism" and the alleged (but unfounded) strain that asylum seekers put on public services.

It's inevitable that some people on the right will present this ruling as evidence that we in Wales are being "too soft" on asylum seekers, or that Welsh people will have less priority than foreigners. I would counter this by arguing that the number of unsuccesful asylum seekers in Wales, in all probability, is in the hundreds, not the thousands, and that in any case most of these people will not even need healthcare. Nobody will be rushed to the front of the queue, and this ruling is simply about fairness and humanity.


No borders Wales said...

It is a very welcome ruling. But would it have stopped Ama Sumani being deported?

Leanne Wood said...

Unfortunately, no this wouldn't have prevented Ama from being deported. She was already receiving health treatment in Wales, and was in fact living in the hospital, because Cardiff Council refused to house her, as they had no legal obligation to do so.

The immigration authorities are backed up by strong legislation when they deport people. The problem was and still is that Assembly had no powers to intervene to stop it. Edwina Hart has written in response to my questioning that she is looking at establishing a protocal between the Welsh NHS and the Immigration Service (sic) to prevent what happened to Ama happening to anyone else. That is a separate issue to this.

This relates to people who have had their claim and subsequent appeals for asylum rejected, but can't go back home. They are not entitled to housing, benefits or health services. They are destitute. On compassionate grounds, the Assembly government thinks they should be able to access health services and I agree.