Protesters say migrants and refugees are welcome at a Stand up to Racism protest (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of migrants have suffered injury, worsening health and potentially shortened lives because the Tories demand the health service bill them before treatment starts.

New data shows that hundreds of patients have declined NHS ­treatment after being hit with upfront charges over the past two years. Even some people with severe ­illnesses, such as cancer, have turned away because they couldn’t afford the bills. 

And that among those untreated are many that have lived in Britain for years—and even decades. It’s proof that the Tories’ racist “hostile environment” policies remain very much alive in the health service.

Figures compiled from freedom of information requests for the Observer newspaper show that, since January 2021, some 3,545 patients across 68 hospital trusts in England have been told they must pay upfront charges totalling £7.1 million.

Of those, 905 patients across 58 trusts did not start treatment.

Dr Laura-Jane Smith, a ­respiratory consultant and member of the campaign group Medact, said, “I had a patient we diagnosed as an emergency with lung cancer but they were told they would be charged upfront for ­treatment and then never returned for a follow-up.

“This was someone who had been in the country for years but who did not have the right official migration status. 

“A cancer diagnosis is ­devastating. To then be abandoned by the health service is inhumane.” NHS bosses in east London in 2022 sent the parents of three year old Omisha Shrestha a bill for £76,000 after treating her for a rare form of liver cancer.

Reeja and Basu have lived in Britain for more than a decade after moving from Nepal. But they have only limited access to public services because of their visa status.

Only after campaigners ­compiled “mountains of evidence” did finance chiefs call off the ­bailiffs that threatened the family. 

Omisha has now been granted British citizenship, meaning future NHS treatment is free.

Reeja told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she thought charging was “unjust”. “We have heard of similar cases of people who have been chased for their NHS debt, so we know that we are not alone and that there are lots of other people who are struggling,” she said.

“We think that it is unjust that Omisha has to pay for her NHS cancer treatment and that we have been treated in this way because of the hostile environment. 

“We don’t want any other family to go through this stress ever again.” Following a campaign, money grabbing managers finally agreed to write-off the debt, and apologised for the time it had taken to do so.

The Tories have tried repeatedly to use migrant NHS charges to whip up division. 

But campaigns show that most people reject racism when presented with the real stories of migrants and their children battling to survive.

Tories make life hell for refugees

The Tories are ramping up their hostile environment against refugees. The Home Office wants to spend £306 million on new detention centres to house 1,000 refugees. 

It’s contracting three immigration removal centres, two of which will hold 360 people, with the third housing 300.

And home secretary Suella Braverman is looking for new locations for barges. That’s despite 39 refugees being removed from the Bibby Stockholm in Portland. 

Thousands of refugees could also face homelessness as the Home Office changes its housing policy.

Refugees and survivors of trafficking previously had 28 days to find somewhere to live after being evicted from Home Office accommodation that is provided while their claims are processed.

Prince kills refugees and gets invite from Sunak

Protesters must be ready to rage against the crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) when he visits Britain in the autumn. 

Rishi Sunak offered the invitation to MBS as Saudi Arabia’s border forces were accused by Human Rights Watch of killing at least 759 refugees.  Most were Ethiopians attempting to cross the border from Yemen.

HRW’s investigation details reports by Ethiopians who said they were attacked by border guards and builds on existing reports of human rights violations. 

Border forces were found to have shot at groups of people who had been arrested and expelled, even as they crossed the border back into Yemen. 

They also forced survivors to rape each other and shot detainees who made it to Saudi Araba at close quarters. 

They forced them to make the appalling choice of which limb they would later shoot. 

Satellite images, photographs and witness testimonies have built up gruesome evidence of mass fatalities, including women and children being shot at. 

“I saw people killed in a way I have never imagined,” said Hamdiya, a 14 year old girl who crossed the border in February. “I saw 30 killed people on the spot.”

Sunak is not likely to care about Saudi Arabia’s horrific treatment of refugees, given his own party’s assaults against refugees trying to come to Britain.

It will also be MBS’s first visit to Britain since he was accused of ordering the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018.

Sunak “welcomed the opportunity” to speak with MBS and “looked forward to personally deepening the long‑standing ties” between Britain and Saudi Arabia. The Labour Party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said Sunak must challenge MBS on human rights but that having a “dialogue” with Saudi Arabia was still important. 

Britain supplies Saudi Arabia with weapons to pummel Yemen and won’t condemn its human rights abuses. 

The Tories have also been cosying up to Saudi Arabia since the Ukraine war in an attempt to secure oil and gas ties after relations with Russia crumbled.

Isabel Ringrose

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