Medact Sheffield: Why We’re Taking Action Against the Hostile Environment

This is a guest blog from Medact Sheffield – a group of doctors and health workers campaigning against the Hostile Environment and its impact on people living in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. They are co-hosting a protest as part of Solidarity Knows No Borders: Weekend of Action Against the Hostile Environment in Sheffield on Monday 12th October.

Healthcare workers protesting outside NHS England in 2019 (Docs Not Cops)

We believe health is a right. We don’t want to be made into border guards and treat patients differently because of their immigration status. Our professional training teaches us to treat all people equally, without prejudice. Immigration checks in healthcare frighten people away who need help and delays access to treatment, causing unnecessary harm, and sadly even death. 

These principles of equality are also the core values of our National Health Service, and this is why we stand in solidarity with Simba Mujakachi, who has been targeted by the cruel and unjust Hostile Environment, and support the Justice for Simba campaign.

After suffering a life threatening stroke, requiring emergency brain surgery and time in intensive care, Simba was presented with a bill of £93,000 because of his immigration status. It is likely Simba wouldn’t have had the stroke if he had been able to access treatment for a blood clotting condition that he was known to have. But because of his immigration status, he was required to pay thousands of pounds for the treatment. As a refused asylum seeker, Simba is unable to work and couldn’t pay – and stopped going for treatment. Now, he is left with a debt to the NHS of over £100,000, and ongoing health problems as a result of the stroke. 

His story has been covered in the local and national press, including on Channel 4 news.

Simba and his father Victor at the launch of the Justice for Simba campaign last year in Sheffield

Simba’s story is not unique – there are thousands like him, denied treatment or billed thousands of pounds for care, across the country, many afraid to come forward. It is in solidarity with them that we are taking action in October. 

Together with dozens of other campaigns nationally, we will shout loudly about the harm caused by immigration enforcement, and to campaign for a fairer immigration system (FIRM). This is a whole weekend of activities, from street art, to demonstrations to online vigils. 

Sheffield is proud to be a City of Sanctuary. In our actions over the course of this weekend, we stand in solidarity with all those affected by the Hostile Environment. We remember the life of Jimmy Mubenga, who was killed 10 years ago this weekend at the hands of border guards. We remember Joy Gardner, who died after being detained during a police immigration raid on her home 27 years ago. We remember Mercy Baguma, who died earlier this year, who was left starving and living in poverty and destitution because of the Government’s Hostile Environment policies. We remember the 39 Vietnamese migrants who died of suffocation in a lorry after trying to find safety and build a new life. We remember all those who have lost their lives, or had them destroyed, by violent and racist immigration controls – and we commit to working together to fight for justice and an end to these dangerous and murderous policies.

💥 Join us in action in Sheffield! 💥

There are a whole number of different actions and events taking place in Sheffield – join us for the weekend of 10 – 12th October.

Join the ‘Hospitable Environment’ Creative Action on Sunday 11th October.

You are invited to join These Walls Must Fall outside the Home Office premises in Sheffield and decorate it with messages of hope, peace, justice, resistance and welcome. More details here

Join the Protest against the Hostile Environment – Justice for Simba – Justice for Jimmy! on Monday 12th October.

Join the Justice for Simba Campaign, Medact Sheffield, SYMAAG, These Walls Must Fall, Sheffield Student Action for Refugees (STAR), Voice of the Voiceless Immigration Detainee Yorkshire (VVIDY) and more outside the Home Office for this socially distanced protest on Monday 12th from 11am – 1pm. We will hear from speakers, including Simba’s dad Victor, who himself was put in detention; from local campaigners, and more. More details are here. 

Join the online vigil to commemorate all the lives lost & destroyed by the Hostile Environment

This online vigil is on Monday 12th from 6.30pm, on Zoom – Register to attend here

Take Further Action!

  • Learn more about the effect of the hostile environment in health on the Patients Not Passports toolkit
  • Sign Simba’s petition, demanding that Simba be granted his immigration status, his NHS charges be cancelled, and that the Hostile Environment in the NHS ends.