The fee that migrants must pay to use the NHS has doubled prompting warnings of a new ‘Windrush-style scandal’. The immigration health surcharge was introduced in 2015 as part of the clampdown on so-called ‘health tourism’ has been hiked from £200 to £400 a year.
A Home Office spokesperson welcomed ‘long-term migrants using the NHS, but we believe it is right that they make a fair and proportionate contribution to its long-term sustainability’. ‘The extra money raised will go directly towards sustaining and protecting our world-class healthcare system.’
A campaign of young migrants, Let us Learn, argues that that 100% increase will mean they could be ‘priced out of their legal right to be here’ because they can’t afford ever-increasing Home Office fees.
‘We are absolutely desolate that the health surcharge increase has gone ahead,’ says Let us Learn co-lead Dami Makinde. ‘The government says it has learned the lessons of Windrush, but they clearly haven’t. For the past year, we have been telling them that they are sowing the seeds for another scandal, only this time it will be young people like me, rather than migrants approaching retirement, who belong in the UK who will be ripped away from their homes and families and threatened with detention or removal.’
Makinde is 25 years of age and has lived in the UK for 17 years. ‘Some of the Let us Learners arrived here as babies or toddlers. We are here legally, but every day we live with the fear of becoming ‘illegal’ and ending up in the hostile environment, because we can’t afford the sums demanded from us by the Home Office,’ she said. As a result of the latest rise, she reckons that she will now have to save around £70 a month, every month of my life ‘simply to be able to meet the cost of my next Home Office renewal when it becomes due’.
She argues that the doubling of the fee contradicts apparent assurances given by Minister of State for Immigration Caroline Nokes MP in a letter to group sent just before Christmas 2018.
In the letter, dated 18 December, Ms Nokes wrote. ‘I want to assure you that the Home Office, and I personally, take the welfare of children and young people very seriously,’ the minister wrote. More here. Let us Learn were calling for the increase in health surcharge to be halted until after a review of the lengthy ‘limited leave to remain’ process. The surcharge is just one of the regular fees that has to be paid with each ‘limited leave to remain’ application.
How Immigration Health Surcharge and Home Office fees have risen
|Home Office application fee||£601||£649||£811||£993||£1,033||£1,033 (2)|
|Immigration Health Surcharge (1)||–||£500||£500||£500||£500||£1,000|
|Total cost of LLR||£601||£1,149||£1,311||£1,493||£1,533||£2,033|
|Year on year increase||–||91%||14%||14%||3%||33%|