New rules on access to healthcare for migrants in Northern Ireland
As of 3 March 2015, new regulations on access to health care for migrants are in place in Northern Ireland. The Provision of Health Services to Persons not Ordinarily Resident Regulations 2015 came into force in February 2015 although there was a short window when they could be challenged. No objections were made and so we are pleased to report that the regulations are here to stay.
What the changes are
The regulations ensure that all asylum seekers, and other specified migrant groups, have access to free healthcare while they are living in Northern Ireland. The regulations also provide much welcomed clarity with regards to migrants' access to primary care more generally. We are delighted with the result.
For a summary of the new regulations, please see here: New rules on access to healthcare for migrants in Northern Ireland.
The role of voluntary organisations
These new regulations are the culmination of two years of lobbying and engagement and we are pleased that the Health Committee and departmental officials listened to us during this process. The Law Centre took forward this work in partnership with the Red Cross and NI Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers and we also received support from a wide number of other organisations, to whom we are very grateful.
These include: African and Caribbean Community Support Organisation, Belfast City Mission, Belfast Migrant Centre, British Medical Association Northern Ireland, Bryson Intercultural, Children’s Law Centre, Chinese Welfare Association, Falls Women’s Centre, Horn of Africa People’s Aid, Homeplus, Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group, NICEM, Royal College of General Practitioners and Women’s Aid. The issue also attracted support from statutory human rights bodies the Commissioner for Children and Young People, NI Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission.
What's happening next
We will be working with partners to host a celebratory event and to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the changes - watch this space for more information. The Department is also due to issue new guidance and we have offered to be involved in this process.
In the meantime, any asylum seeker or migrant wishing to know how this change in the law affects them can contact the Law Centre's Community Care Legal Advice Line: 028 9024 4401, Monday to Friday, 9.30 to 1pm.