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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Windrush cancer victim in High Court challenge to 'hostile environment' policy

Written by Sian Harrison

A member of the Windrush Generation forced to pay for cancer treatment is bringing a High Court challenge against a key part of the Government's "hostile environment" immigration policy.

The man, identified only as MP, is in his late 50s and suffers from a form of incurable blood cancer which had to be treated with repeated courses of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

MP came to the UK from St Lucia with his family when he was 14 years old and has lived and worked in the UK for more than 40 years. His lawyers said he has served time in prison for a number of serious offences.

After a decade of delay, the court heard, he was refused leave to remain in the UK in 2015 - around the same time his life-threatening illness was diagnosed.

His lawyers told the court he did not keep any immigration paperwork and the Home Office "appears to have failed to keep any records" in relation to him.

As a result of the Home Office decision on MP's immigration status - which he is challenging in separate proceedings - he has been charged thousands of pounds and was even refused treatment on the basis he was unable to pay upfront.

His treatment resumed after his lawyers contacted the London hospital trust where he was a patient.

MP is now asking the High Court to quash regulations which require NHS bodies to secure payment from overseas visitors in advance of treatment and to record a patient's immigration status against their NHS number.

The regulations, which MP's lawyers said are a "significant contribution" to the hostile environment policy, were introduced last year as part of a raft of amendments to existing rules.

Jason Coppel QC, representing MP, said the changes have "far-reaching implications".

He told the court: "They have a direct impact upon the most vulnerable individuals who will find it particularly difficult to pay for healthcare in advance and in full.

"They target people who may be concerned that their immigration status will be recorded and passed to the immigration authorities when they seek access to healthcare."

He added: "The 2017 regulations are, in short, a significant contribution to the Government's wider policy of creating a 'hostile environment' for immigrants to the UK."

Mr Coppel said that, as with many other members of the Windrush Generation, the "approach of the Home Office to immigration record-keeping" caused his immigration status to be questioned and he was eventually, 10 years after making his application, refused leave to remain.

MP challenged the Home Office's decision and is awaiting a tribunal ruling on his immigration status - which his lawyers said he is "likely" to win.

He is currently receiving cancer treatment, but is still being charged.

Concern that members of the Windrush Generation, who came to the UK from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and early 1970s, were facing deportation and being denied access to healthcare due to paperwork issues and anomalies led to a scandal earlier this year.

The then-home secretary Amber Rudd resigned amid a backlash over her department's hostile environment policy.

Lawyers for the Health and Social Care Secretary argue MP's case is "unfounded" and should be dismissed.

The hearing is due to finish on Wednesday and Mr Justice Lewis is expected to give his ruling on the case at a later date.

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