MIGRANTS in the UK are suffering sickness in silence, according to new research which showed 43% would be scared to access healthcare for fear of being charged or having their data shared with the Home Office.

The survey, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) also found more than half of people with refugee status would be put off accessing healthcare because of the risk of their data being shared, despite refugees being entitled to it.

The JCWI said that apart from refugees, the more precarious a migrant’s status is, the more likely they were to fear seeking healthcare.

While just 17% of people with indefinite leave to remain (LTR) would be fearful, 24% of those with a temporary visa such as a work or spouse visa would be scared, along with 81% of those without any form of status.

Being classed as having no recourse to public funds (NRPF) was, said the JCWI, a huge indicator of fear of accessing healthcare. Despite the fact NRPF does not exclude people from NHS care, 58% of such respondents would be scared to seek healthcare.

The survey came as the Government moved to reassure people they would not be targeted for immigration enforcement if they came forward for the coronavirus vaccine.

“We welcome the fact the Government is finally making an effort to tell some of the most marginalised and at-risk people in our communities that they should come forward for the Covid-19 vaccine,” said JCWI chief executive Satbir Singh. “Everyone has always been able to go to a GP regardless of their immigration status so this is not a new policy.

“But our research reveals nearly half of those surveyed would still be scared to access healthcare for fear of being charged or having their personal data shared with the Home Office, which could put them at risk of immigration detention or deportation.

“The Government has a very poor record in building trust with migrant, refugee and BAME communities.

“Today’s move to reassure them is not enough. As long as the hostile environment policies which underpin rules around migrants using the NHS remain in place, people will still be fearful. For the sake of everyone’s health, the hostile environment must be immediately scrapped.”

Scotland’s first black professor, meanwhile, has said a more diverse line-up of experts should have been prominent throughout the pandemic to help promote the Covid vaccines.

Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, of Heriot-Watt University, said black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) experts should have been standing alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson to speak about the virus from the beginning and insisted lessons must be learned.”