Using NHS records to catch illegal immigrants
Britain’s Home Office has been granted access to data to British medical records from the National Health Service (NHS), a report published on Sunday in British daily The Guardian. It has been revealed that the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) had been retrieving the records of more than 6,900 illegal or undocumented immigrants since 2010 – a step up in protecting Britain’s borders. They believe that this could be part of the solution of the ongoing illegal immigration problems.
Home Office Accessing NHS records to find Illegal immigrants using The little known exemption to the Data Protection Law
But by law, British medical records are protected by a privacy act which restricts access to anyone without a court order ; then again, new facts has surfaced that the UKVI can now access to patient’s personal information without a court order which allows them additional data on tracking down over stayers. It is clear that they have applied for an exemption to the law in this case.
It is also reported that the British police forces and the National Crime Agency has the same access to this sensitive data for the purpose of curbing criminality. They will use the data to chase undesirable individuals who pose a threat public safety and national security. But, by enforcing this policy, undocumented immigrants who are victims or witnesses of crimes themselves must be able to call police assistance without the fear of being reported to and detained by immigration. There must be no barrier between the police and the public no matter what their immigration status is. Criminals, who know their victims’ immigration status, know that they are unlikely to call the police, therefore, creating a window of opportunity.
However, the exposés have raised questions involving rights of privacy of patients and migrants. Rights groups fear that certain rights might be violated, adding that criminals might also take advantage of this new policy. The use of this new procedure in the keeping of details is not just a breach of privacy; it completely violates migrants’ human rights they say. Immigration has a legal obligation to enforce immigration laws; however, it shouldn’t violate migrant’s right. On the other hand, it will only drive migrants into further hiding which shouldn’t be the case as this pose a serious health risk. With the illegal immigration problem on the rise, they stressed that this is the better option.
The chief executive of the Patients Association – Katherine Murphy, also raised her concern over the new immigration policy which granted them access to data from NHS, saying that this could dissuade people from seeking medical services for themselves and their families adding that this could pose an alarming health risk.
Furthermore, Murphy added that children will be the most affected if parents refuse medical treatment when they are ill, fearing that their personal information might be disclosed to immigration and other agencies concerned.
It later related that they made access to more than 12,500 medical records of patients from the NHS between July 2010 and December 2013.