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These are not the choices doctors should have to make.

By Sita Brahmachari - Author and Amnesty Ambassador

It’s often been quoted that coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. Yet we know that isn’t true.

Lots of people –mainly on the fringes of our societies – are being blocked from accessing vital healthcare and somewhere to stay safe inside. Many of them are migrants and people seeking asylum . 

One possible enlightening aspect of this pandemic is that in one form or another it creates a hostile environment for all of us.

Light and hope in troubled times

During the Olympic ceremony the celebration of the NHS – as a force for common good, compassion, diversity, celebration of migrant workers and lack of discrimination – brought this nation together.

It seems that when people clap or hold a moment’s silence they are holding faith with the founding principles of the NHS to protect all our lives. There is no caveat in these founding principles yet these have crept in and been enshrined by law.

However, if you are a doctor or health care professional struggling to save lives and treat people, you may also be struggling to advocate for the migrant and asylum seeker in your care to be treated.

You may be advocating for the child you’ve been struggling to save because they have been brought into your care so late in the day. 

I don’t know anyone who claps on a Thursday or who takes a moment’s silence to place a health professional in this scenario.

Getting your child to a doctor

Your child is ill. 

Your immigration status is not confirmed or your Migrant status does not afford you the right to free health care.  

You do not have the money to pay for health care.

You hardly have the money to feed yourself.

You may be living in insecure and crowded accommodation.

You may be forced to break the rules on self isolation (if you have a home) and seek work despite having sickness in your family or group.

Finally you are desperate and take your family member to hospital.

What your doctor is forced to think about

You are a doctor working in a global pandemic. 

You are stretched beyond belief. Now you have to start the complex process of negotiating with administrators to be able to treat a child. 

This is not an imaginary scenario. Nor is it the bleakest. Some migrant and asylum seeking people are too scared of  the immigration authorities to even seek assistance.  

We should be in this together.

There are so many people who are being placed at risk by the government’s policy that is now helping to create a more dangerous environment for us all. 

Amnesty is calling for the government to address these problems: so health professionals can treat and protect us all, no matter who we are, or where we come from, and to make it true to say that this virus does not discriminate.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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