Justice For Simba brings a Carnival of Resistance to Sheffield, demanding an end to all NHS charging!

Campaigners from different parts of the UK, joined over 200 people in support of  the Justice for Simba Campaign on 18th September, 2021, for the ‘Carnival of Resistance Against the Hostile Environment in the NHS’. Simba’s campaign is calling for Simba’s £100,000 NHS bill to be scrapped, for his refugee status to be recognised, and for an end to all migrant charging in the NHS.

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Watch Simba’s Carnival of Resistance

Two years ago in Sheffield, Simba Mujakachi, a Zimbabwean who has been living in the UK for most of his life,  suffered a life-threatening stroke which left him partially paralysed. He was charged over £100,000 by the NHS for the care needed to save his life because of his immigration status, despite not being allowed to work and not having an income. The previous year, Simba stopped receiving treatment for his blood clotting condition due to unaffordable NHS costs. It is likely that if Simba had been able to access this treatment, it could have prevented the devastating stroke. Simba’s story was featured on Channel 4 and in the Guardian.

Simba’s iconic poster by khadijadraws

After leaving hospital, Migrants Organise supported Simba to launch the Justice for Simba campaign in 2019. Supporters raised about £5,000 for him, organised demos at the Home Office in Sheffield, organised poster campaigns all over the country, and now over 79,000 people have signed Simba’s petition calling for his bill to be scrapped and an end to all NHS charging for migrants.

The Carnival of Resistance started with an overview by These Walls Must Fall organiser, Rosie Huzzard, followed by a passionate speech by Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam, to a buoyant crowd that was both excited for putting up such a successful resistance and angry with the atrocities of the hostile environment.

Blake described Simba’s case of being charged extortionate fees as shocking. She stated that it was proof that the government’s hostile environment immigration policies are eroding the core principles of the NHS. She also said Simba’s case was not an isolated case. “Our health service must treat people based on medical need, rather than immigration status – we must completely dismantle the hostile environment.” She concluded. Ms Blake has written to the Department of Health and raised Simba’s story in Parliament.

Simba's Carnival of Resistance

Simba was charged over £100,000 for his life saving treatment
No Borders in the NHS

The participating organisations included: Migrants Organise, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG), Medact Sheffield, Docs Not Cops Sheffield, These Walls Must Fall, VIVVDY, ASSIST Sheffield, Keep Our NHS Public-Leeds, Sheffield TUC, Labour for a Green New Deal, Mount Pleasant Park FC, City of Sanctuary Sheffield, Wakefield District City of Sanctuary, Sheffield Against Asylum Evictions (SAAE), Anti Raids Sheffield, Extinction Rebellion Sheffield, One Rainbow Bridge Network, and campaigners from across the Patients Not Passports campaign, as well as passers-by who joined the carnival as it marched through Sheffield City Centre.

Olivia Blake Supports Carnival of Resistance
Local MP Olivia Blake supports the campaign

The protesters marched with the amazing Sheffield Samba band through Sheffield City Centre chanting and displaying messages to let the whole town know that we have joined Simba to seek justice for him and for all the victims of the hostile environment. Many bystanders and passers-by expressed their support by waving and taking leaflets.

Protesters listened to amazing speeches at Hallamshire Hospital despite the refusal of the Trust authorities to receive the petition. Phil Andrews, Co-Chair of SYMAAG MC-ed the speeches, which included testimony from were Victor Mujakachi a campaigner and father of Simba, Pious, a campaigner with These Walls Must Fall, Kitty Worthing from Medact Sheffield, and Maxine Bowler from the Sheffield Trades Union Congress.

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All the speakers expressed anger at what happened to Simba and other victims of the hostile environment and called for NHS charging to be scrapped.

Sarli Nana from Migrants Organise Yorkshire and Humber closed the event with a speech written by Simba followed by extra remarks from Simba himself in which he thanked the supporters and vowed to continue the fight not only for himself but others who may face similar circumstances.

Aliya Yule, Access to Healthcare Migrant Organiser at Migrants Organise, said:

“Simba’s campaign is about more than scrapping the charges for his own treatment – it’s a fight for the heart and soul of the NHS, for migrant justice, and for truly universal public services.

What happened to Simba, and what is happening to thousands of others across the country, shows why we must accept nothing less than an end to the entirety of the racist Hostile Environment. When we say migrants should not be charged, we are saying that nobody should be charged and that the government cannot use migrants as a scapegoat for their desire to privatise the NHS.”

Stuart Crosthwaite, from South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG), said:

“Nobody should be deterred from seeking vital healthcare because they can’t pay for it or because they’re worried their personal data will be shared without consent. Our protest on Saturday is for Justice for Simba, but also to defend the principle of universal healthcare which is central to the NHS.”

To get involved in the campaign against NHS charging, sign this letter to the Department of Health and register to join an intro meeting with the Patients Not Passports campaign here.