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Asylum Matters: Local Elections, “Study Ban,” NHS data sharing with Home office Update

Some highlights from the recent Asylum Matters news;letter. If you’re not already subscribed to this, you really should be: contact Andrea Vukovic for details: [email protected]

Local Elections: Talking to Candidates About Refugee & Asylum Issues

 Local elections in England are taking place on Thursday 3rdMay 2018. Local authorities are important advocacy targets as they deliver a range of services which refugees and asylum-seekers will access and are responsible for delivering a strategic vision for the area they represent. They themselves can also be powerful advocates for change, including with national government. The run-up to the election will be an opportunity to ask candidates what they plan to do on refugee and asylum issues in the local area if they are elected. Asylum Matters has produced a short guide including some questions that can be put to candidates, whether you’re meeting them at a hustings event, at a street stall or on your doorstep – see below and here.

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Bail 201 Forms & Study Ban for Asylum-Seekers

 Since January 2018, all asylum-seekers are considered to be on ‘immigration bail’ which has replaced other forms of temporary admission (and despite the name does not only apply to those who have been released from detention). Since the change all people who have just arrived in the UK and anyone who is already in the UK but does not have leave to enter or remain will receive a ‘Bail 201 form’ clarifying any conditions on their status, previously limited to not working, living at a specified address, or reporting to the police or Home Office. However, now a person may also receive a condition allowing or preventing study. The Home Office guidance on applying these conditions can be found here and states that:

There is nothing in the Immigration Rules to prevent asylum seekers studying but if they:

  • have exhausted their appeal rights 
  • have committed immigration offences
  • are otherwise not entitled to study

you must not give them permission to study using immigration bail condition.”

It has been reported that significant numbers of people have been told in the last few weeks that they are not allowed to study, including asylum-seekers, which appears to be contrary to Home Office guidance. Clarity on this guidance and its application is being sought from the Home Office. In the meantime, Coram has produced some useful guidance for those who receive a no-study condition which can be found here.

Health Select Committee Report on MoU Between Home Office & NHS Digital

The Health Select Committee (HSC) has just released a report following its enquiry into the data sharing MoU between the Home Office and NHS Digital. The Committee has expressed concerns about the ability of NHS Digital to act in accordance with its role ‘as a steward of health and social care data’ and in its ability to uphold the interests of patients and maintain the necessary degree of independence from Government. After the Committee held its first oral evidence session in January 2018, it wrote to NHS Digital requesting a suspension of the MoU until a more thorough review of the wider implications of sharing addresses with the Home Office for immigration tracing purposes was conducted.

The request was rejected and a second oral evidence session including the Chair of NHS Digital was held in March 2018 with the intention of hearing a more convincing case for the continued operation of the MoU. The report from the Committee notes, “We regret that we did not hear such a case (…) We repeat the conclusion of our 29 January letter that NHS Digital should suspend its participation in the memorandum of understanding until the current review of the NHS Code of Confidentiality is complete.” The report can be found here and Doctors of the World, National Aids Trust and others are encouraging partners to share on social media using #StopSharing.

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