“Illegal migrants’ vaccine amnesty” is the front page of today’s Daily Mail. The paper reports that, in an “unprecedented” move, migrants will be vaccinated against coronavirus irrespective of their immigration status in the UK. In fact this is nothing new: coronavirus diagnosis and treatment, including “routine vaccinations”, have been exempt from NHS England charges and status checks since January 2020. (Separate but similar provisions are in place for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)
The Home Office statement on this, circulated by press release overnight, says in full:
Coronavirus vaccines will be offered to everyone living in the UK free of charge, regardless of immigration status. Those registered with a GP are being contacted at the earliest opportunity and we are working closely with partners and external organisations to contact those who are not registered with a GP to ensure they are also offered the vaccine.
The government is also briefing that data sharing between the NHS and Home Office is limited — which is not the same thing as a guarantee that no information gathered as part of the vaccination drive can later be accessed for enforcement purposes. The Home Office has form in this area: an agreement on using NHS data to track down unauthorised migrants was scrapped in 2018 only after legal action. Campaign groups like Liberty and JCWI have reiterated their call for the full abolition of data sharing.
No one is protected unless we are all protected – with no exceptions.— Liberty (@libertyhq) February 8, 2021
To #ProtectEveryone Gov must end the racist hostile environment, scrap data-sharing between NHS and Home Office Immigration Enforcement, and stop charging migrants for NHS care.https://t.co/Z11aTogUrJ