What has the Immigration Bill got to do with public health?

Migration Public Health

Lewisham Council supports World AIDS Day on the 1st December 2015. It is an opportunity to show support for people living with HIV, remember those who have lost their lives because of HIV and learn the facts of HIV today in the UK and worldwide.

Councillors unanimously supported a motion proposed by Councillor Alan Hall supporting World AIDS Day but expressed concern at the the Government’s plans in the Immigration Bill.  He said:

“These proposals will subject the most vulnerable asylum seekers and migrants living with and affected by HIV to further destitution and will undermine their ability to manage their health. This will subsequently affect their individual health and the wider public health.

HIV treatment is available to everyone living in the UK, regardless of immigration status, but it must be adhered to exactly to be successful. In 2012, the Government removed any residency-based restrictions on access to HIV treatment in light of the immense public health benefit of universal access. Access to and adherence to HIV treatment means that a person living with HIV can maintain good health and become effectively non-infectious by suppressing their viral load, the amount of HIV present in the body. By contrast, poor adherence increases the risk of poor virological control, which is associated with illness and also HIV transmission.

The Immigration Bill rather than strengthening the integrity of the immigration system will undermine it through forcing people into destitution, homelessness and ill health.

We anticipate the removal of basic subsistence support may even encourage some Appeal Rights Exhausted asylum seekers to lose contact with the immigration system and abscond as they will have little incentive to remain in contact with the authorities once support is withdrawn. We are particularly concerned that if the latter were to happen, it would be detrimental to those living with HIV who may also avoid accessing HIV treatment and care services out of fear of being detected by the authorities

Access to good quality and stable housing is a vital element in maintaining the health and wellbeing of all people living with HIV. Privacy and stability are essential to support the necessary daily adherence to HIV medication. Poor quality housing, including damp or poorly maintained accommodation, can endanger someone with a compromised immune system. Measures to further restrict  asylum seekers access to housing as will increase homelessness and destitution in an already vulnerable population group. Evicting  asylum seekers living with HIV runs the risk of removing the stability needed to adhere to medication and remain healthy.”

The National AIDS Trust recommends that proposals to enable landlords to evict people because of their immigration status means they do not have a right to rent are not upheld in the Immigration Bill.

Lewisham Council agreed to call on the Government to remove these provisions in the Immigration Bill and for the Government to fully fund Local Authorities for their work as the ‘budget of last resort’.

Full text of Lewisham Council’s motion is here

For more information contact the National AIDS Trust: http://www.nat.org.uk/