THE Tory government has been urged to rethink its “cruel and nonsensical” Nationality and Borders Bill after concerns were raised around the impact it would have on people’s health.

An article published by the British Medical Journal on Thursday urged Home Secretary Priti Patel to scrap the bill altogether amid concerns it poses “serious threats to the health and wellbeing of people going through the asylum system”.

The article reads: “[Patel] has said that the main motivation behind this bill is to fix an asylum system that is broken. Yet the system was never broken, it actually did and is still doing what it was designed to do: to create a hostile environment for people seeking refuge.”

The piece was written by Matteo Besana, Yusuf Ciftci, and Thabo Makuyana, who are all connected to the charity Doctors of the World.

READ MORE: Torture survivors feel unsafe in UK as Home Office rhetoric hardens, expert says

The three warn that measures in the borders bill will restrict vulnerable people’s access to healthcare through its creation of a “two-tier” asylum system.

If Patel’s bill passes, those who enter the UK through a visa or resettlement route will be given the protection they are entitled to under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. However, in direct contravention of that agreement, the Tories are seeking to differentiate between asylum seekers depending on how they arrive in the country.

If a person arrives by unconventional means, such as crossing the Channel in a small boat, they will instead be given “temporary protection status”. This comes with fewer rights, and Doctors of the World warned, will exacerbate problems which already exist in the current system.

“We should be scrapping a model that has been found to fail asylum seekers, as well as posing serious threats to their health and wellbeing, not replicating it on a much larger scale,” the authors say.

“This flies in the face of one of the biggest lessons of the pandemic—namely, that only when everybody is protected is each and every one of us protected.”

The National:

Immigration status checks in hospitals, allowing people’s information to be shared between the NHS and the Home Office, and a tightening of rules for “overseas visitors” accessing healthcare are highlighted as problematic barriers to accessing healthcare.

They also raise concerns about holding centres where people seeking asylum are processed, saying that Napier Barracks, where nearly 200 people tested positive for coronavirus after being forced to live in unsafe conditions.

Priti Patel had claimed that the barracks had been “adapted in line with and in light of Public Health England guidance” to be “Covid compliant”. However, she faced calls to resign after a judge ruled that the Home Office had departed from PHE advice in “a fundamental way without good reason”.

Doctors of the World said: “This [accommodation] model, shown to be a public health risk, will be adopted on a much larger scale, with yet unknown implications for both the residents of these new reception centres, as well as for the communities in their proximity.”

Responding to the BMJ article calling on Patel to scrap the bill, the Scottish Refugee Council said it would “worsen the already vast health inequalities experienced by people seeking protection”.

Gary Christie, the charity’s head of policy, told The National: “The cruel and nonsensical nature of the anti-refugee bill becomes clearer by the day.

“The bill’s poorly thought out measures will likely worsen the already vast health inequalities experienced by people seeking protection, and as this piece in the BMJ sets out, its plans for so called ‘reception centres’ are a potential public health risk. We are deeply concerned that these centres will leave people in isolation indefinitely, with little control over their lives.

“The UK Government should rethink this inhumane and dangerous bill.

“If it does not, we hope to see the Scottish Government lodge a legislative consent memorandum and use its devolved competencies to their fullest potential to protect Scotland’s progressive policies towards people seeking asylum and mitigate against the very worst impacts of this bill, from access to justice to healthcare.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Whilst our New Plan for Immigration will continue to welcome people through safe and legal routes, it will also prevent abuse of the system, cracking down on illegal entry and the criminality associated with it.

“The Nationality and Borders Bill, fully compliant with our legal and international obligations, will continue to offer protection to the most vulnerable while stepping up measures to break the deadly trade of people smuggling and fixing our broken asylum system."