A local NHS group is raising concerns about accommodation standards for asylum seekers in Sheffield.
MedAct Sheffield, run by frontline NHS workers, are leading a campaign for “health justice”. After reports of poor sanitation in the home office accommodation migrants were placed in.
Dr Rizwana Lana raised this issue with the Sheffield City Council last week. She said: “We’ve been working with migrant organisations. They are telling us that GPs are unwilling to go into the accommodation because it’s so dirty and unsanitary. They are worried about the welfare of other patients through infectious disease spread.
“We’ve heard stories of an extremely vulnerable older woman with dementia with severe malnutrition because she needed to be fed with a feed.
“The accommodation didn’t have the facilities to store her medical feed, so her son chewed the food in order to get her fed.”
MedAct have reported that people seeking asylum are being charged up to 150% of their healthcare in Sheffield hospitals. They also reported that if asylum seekers didn’t pay within 8 weeks, the information is shared with the home office.
This can then affect people’s asylum status, so it becomes a huge barrier to accessing healthcare.
Dr Lana said: “Sheffield has a proud history of being a city of sanctuary. We want to know what the council is doing to ensure the welfare of asylum seekers coming to this city.
“We need to make sure their human rights and their dignity is maintained.”
When these issues were raised at the council meeting, councillors were sympathetic to the cause but emphasised their lack of power regarding this situation.
Councillor Angela Argenzio said: “We are aware of what’s going on but it’s always important to be reminded about what happens on our doorstep.
“I think we need to do all that we can to pressure a directive from the national government.”
This sentiment was echoed by Councillor Douglas Johnson who said: “We have about 30000 asylum seekers and you’re right, they’re not treated like other people.
“The council is not permitted to help in the way we would with other people who are homeless. The council’s abilities are strained here, we have no legal jurisdiction over their welfare.
“We end up with this really shameful situation where migrants are shuffled down a different track.”