Asylum policy puts seekers health at risk, says BMA

25 Oct 01
Vouchers and forced dispersal are putting the health of asylum seekers at serious risk and should be abandoned, doctors said this week.

26 October 2001

Mothers are being forced to water down milk to make vouchers go further, children are going without routine inoculations as families are moved without informing the NHS and people needing psychological support have been placed in areas without adequate services, the British Medical Association said.

The BMA study, produced with the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, says the controversial voucher system that asylum seekers have to use to buy food, clothing and other goods must be scrapped.

It also calls for an end to the dispersal system under which refugee families are moved away from the Southeast to places where there is not always the infrastructure to support them.

Doctors hope they can influence a Home Office review of policy towards asylum seekers, which is due by the end of November.

Dr Michael Wilks, BMA ethics committee chairman, said: 'The Home Office and Department of Health need to co-operate to a greater degree. Interpreting facilities, specialist training for doctors and rehabilitation services need to be in place before asylum seekers arrive in a community.

'The current system is chaotic and offers little or no support. The only initiatives to help are at local level, which is disgraceful.'

Doctors say they know that some children of asylum seekers are not being immunised or properly treated for chronic conditions because the forced dispersal policy results in a lack of continuity of treatment.


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