- Created: Sunday, 21 December 2014 20:38
- Written by Rachel Francis
‘The most important thing is my child. They know – they know it won't be the same care and yet they want to dump the child’ Chino, Ife's mother
Two-year old Ife and her family have been threatened with deportation from their home in Peckham, south London to Nigeria, and they are determined to fight back. Chino, Ife's mother, fears for her future; Ife, born with Down's syndrome and health complications, relies on essential healthcare and support here. FRFI supporters met Chino during a local street stall against benefit sanctions. Together we started a campaign to defend Ife's right to stay.In addition to facing the vicious immigration system, the family are enduring NHS charges and financial insecurity, effects of increasingly racist and hostile government policy.
Peckham's population, about half of whom were not born in England, faces generalised suspicion from the authorities. Immigration checks at the train station and bus stops have intensified, attempting to divide those the state deems welcome from those it does not. Recently it was leaked that the Home Office requested local passport applications received additional checks, particularly those of children. Essential services are being hit hard, with the Jobcentre sanctioning more people than any other in London. At the same time, fewer people are able to claim legal aid in order to access an already limited justice system. Many families share the same worries as Ife's.
However, Ife is settled into a supportive school she enjoys, which knows her and understand her needs. She receives speech and language support and has access to emergency care if needed. Researchers are working with Ife in order to further improve her care and the care of others. Her church and community care for her. This is what Ife is set to lose. Ife could not access the healthcare she needs in Nigeria, being unaffordable in private hospitals, and non-existent in the area Chino is originally from. Chino fears Ife will face a short life of pain and discrimination, and face exclusion and prejudice: she asks, ‘what has this child done – they want her to die?’.
Ife's wellbeing means more than anything to Chino. It is a current positive in amongst the wider worries, such as more than £10,000 of debt owed for NHS care. Chino had been in London for six years when she became pregnant and had Ife, and was immediately landed with a huge debt. The charge for the birth of Ife's sister two years later was simply added to the bill. Introduced by the Con-Dem government in 2011, charges are based on a woman's immigration status as decided by the Home Office, and passed on by NHS trusts. Some women receive a bill after birth, whilst others are forced to choose upfront from packages of care, and receive only what they can pay for. Chino must pay back a monthly sum she simply cannot afford, with the family already reliant on charity for food because of the difficult work and benefit rules surrounding immigration.
In similar situations, women have been denied care. Others are too fearful of costs to attend appointments, or are entitled to free care but do not know. Doctors of the World (DOTW), a charity providing healthcare to migrants, found that 75% of the pregnant women seeking their care had not accessed antenatal care when they needed it.There has been at least one high-profile case of a woman who did not access care for several weeks after she felt her baby stop moving. After confirming the baby had no heartbeat and had died, they tried to charge her £2,500 to bring on the birth; she could not pay and knew any debt to the NHS would prevent her getting a visa to remain with her husband. She fled. There are no choices here, only the inhumanity of placing women in impossible situations.
NHS healthcare staff are increasingly expected to play the role of border police, entirely at odds with good care. The situation is set to worsen as the recently passed 2014 Immigration Bill extends charging even further, affecting a wide-range of healthcare provision. As DOTW report, ‘an estimated 618,000 undocumented migrants are not permitted to work. Thus to deny free healthcare is to deny care. Collecting debt from vulnerable people is not only distressing, time consuming and expensive, it’s fundamentally illogical as many simply cannot afford to pay.’ Whilst the government work out how best to implement the charges, they are busy justifying their decisions with a steady stream of media reports and politician's speeches which reiterate the lie of healthcare tourism.
All major parties have been clear that they will continue to strengthen the racist immigration laws. They will continue to make life increasingly difficult for the poorest sections of the working class, and attempt to divide and criminalise immigrants. Whilst perpetuating racism at home, the ruling class will continue to plunder oil from Nigeria, as well as exploit IMF debts and deals. They will exploit people when they need them and discard them when they do not.
We must fight racism in all its forms. Ife's family are determined to ensure she stays where she is safe and cared for. They are taking action and call on your support in opposing deportations and the racism of the British government. Support the campaign by:
- signing the petition at www.change.org
Ife must stay! No to all deportations! Together we are stronger!