Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 00:11 UK

NHS migrant rules face legal bid

Image of an injection
Failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants are not given NHS care

Rules banning some migrants in England from NHS treatment are to be challenged in the High Court.

A Palestinian failed asylum seeker says denying him care for chronic liver disease breaches his human rights.

He is supported financially by the Home Office while unable to return to the West Bank owing to travel restrictions.

A victory in court could affect 11,000 people in similar situations. Currently failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants cannot get free NHS care.

My client is effectively stuck in the UK, even though he is doing all that he can to return home
Adam Hundt, lawyer
The only exceptions are for emergency treatment or specific situations, for example if the wider public health is at risk because of infectious disease.

People who are unable to return home because of travel restrictions or because they are too ill are banned from free NHS treatment.

The man's legal team will argue this is wrong during the two-day hearing.

However, they are not seeking to overturn the principle that failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants in general should not be treated.

Adam Hundt, of human rights specialists Pierce Glynn and who is representing the man, said the rules were leading to "grotesque human suffering".

"My client is effectively stuck in the UK, even though he is doing all that he can to return home.

"He has never broken the law, and the Home Office recognises that it has to provide him with accommodation so as not to breach his human rights.

"It seems perverse that housing is considered a basic human right and that health care is not."

No return

The man, who is in his 30s and known only as A, applied for asylum when he arrived in England three years ago. His case was rejected and he agreed to return to the West Bank.

But because of travel restrictions and difficulty getting travel documents, the government has accepted he cannot return.

The Home Office provides him with accommodation and gives him 35 per week to live on.

But his local London hospital has refused to treat him for his chronic liver disease as officially he is a failed asylum seeker, although he is now being cared for while the case is heard.

The Department of Health said it could not comment on the case.


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