Covid: 'No deportation risk' for illegal migrants getting vaccination

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Image source, Reuters

People living in the UK unlawfully won't be risking deportation by coming forward for a coronavirus jab, the government has said.

Ministers say they want everyone to get vaccinated and are urging illegal immigrants to register with a GP.

The vaccine is free, regardless of a person's immigration status.

However, the policy is not an amnesty for immigrants and no-one will be given leave to remain in the UK as a result of being vaccinated.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck in the spring, the government announced that anyone seeking a test or treatment for coronavirus would not have their immigration status checked.

It is now being made explicit that this principle applies to vaccinations too.

And the government has said it will work with outside organisations to contact those who aren't yet registered with a GP.

'Too afraid'

Responding to the news, the former minister, Conservative Julian Smith told the BBC's Westminster Hour: "I welcome everybody, whoever they are, getting a jab."

Steve Valdez-Symonds from Amnesty UK said many undocumented immigrants are "too afraid" to access healthcare, adding that "it has been the message, very clearly, from the government that access to health care is something that leads to information being passed about them to the immigration authorities".

"It is great that the government has said it won't do that in this case, but it has an awful lot to do to ensure that people can believe in that."

He also said it was the case that "many GP surgeries wrongly think people aren't allowed to register with them because of their immigration status, which is not true."

According to a National Audit Office report published last year the government has not had an up-to-date estimate of the number of immigrants in the UK illegally in 15 years - so it is not clear how many people this ruling affects.

The last official estimate found about 430,000 people were in the country with no legal right to remain, but that figure dates back to 2005.

And the NAO says independent research since then has put the number at over a million.

More than 12 million people in the UK have now had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and the government is aiming to offer first doses to 15 million people in the top four priority groups by 15 February.