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Refugee health proposals 'cruel and unfair' say Jesuits

 The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has branded UK Government proposals to make overseas visitors ineligible for free NHS primary medical services as "cruel" and warns that they could worsen community and race relations. Responding to a Department of Health consultation document, JRS-UK says that the proposals may compound an already bad situation: "Given that so many asylum seekers and 'failed' asylum seekers are homeless, their health problems will be compounded by stress over their living situations and possibly rough sleeping. To give the added stress of worrying about being charged for primary health care is to our mind cruel." The proposal to make refugees and asylum seekers provide proof of eligibility for free NHS primary medical services is also criticised by JRS-UK. "In our experience, many people experience delays in getting the official documents from the Home Office detailing their new status," the JRS response says. "This already causes significant problems in accessing benefits, accommodation and the labour market. It is not inconceivable that similar problems could arise in accessing free NHS primary medical services." While welcoming the proposal to waive charges where primary health services are needed "on humanitarian grounds", JRS-UK says it is "unfair" that the needs should be "exceptional". "This proposal recognises the importance of access to primary medical care. It would surely be more humanitarian to allow everyone in need to have this access as is currently the case." A further reason NHS primary health services should remain free for asylum seekers, according to JRS-UK, is the affect upon local communities. "In our opinion, these proposals will worsen local community and race relations. Local communities will be fragmented if people are turned away from GP surgeries because they do not have the correct papers." The consultation on these proposals from the Department of Health ends on Friday (13 August). The full version of the JRS-UK response is available on www.jrsuk.net Source: JRS