Illegal migrants' vaccine amnesty: Up to 1.3m urged to come forward

Illegal migrants’ vaccine amnesty: Up to 1.3million are urged to register with a GP for a Covid-19 jab in drive for herd immunity… and they’ll face no action from the Home Office

  • Illegal immigrants will be granted an ‘amnesty’ to come forward for Covid jabs
  • Move hoped to help Britain reach herd immunity and accelerate end of lockdown
  • Estimates put the figure of foreigners with ‘irregular status’ as high as 1.3million 

Illegal immigrants will be granted an ‘amnesty’ to come forward for Covid jabs, the Daily Mail can reveal today.

The unprecedented move is aimed at helping Britain to reach herd immunity and accelerate the easing of lockdown.

‘The moral in this is that everyone needs to get the jab, for everyone’s safety,’ a Whitehall source said.

Officials insist that illegal migrants will not be able to jump the queue for vaccines or use the scheme as a way to acquire other rights.

It will mean only that the Home Office takes no action if they register with a GP to be inoculated. No official count exists for the number of foreigners with ‘irregular status’ but some estimates put the figure as high as 1.3million.

The unprecedented move is aimed at helping Britain to reach herd immunity and accelerate the easing of lockdown. (Stock image)

‘Coronavirus vaccines will be offered to everyone living in the UK free of charge, regardless of immigration status,’ a Government spokesman said last night.

‘Those registered with a GP are being contacted at the earliest opportunity and we are working closely with partners and external  organisations to contact those who are not registered with a GP to ensure they are also offered the vaccine.’

All categories of illegal migrants will be guaranteed they will suffer no repercussions if they come forward, including those who entered Britain clandestinely, such as on boats crossing the Channel or in the back of lorries.

MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke who said the move is ‘in all our interests’

Other categories of irregular migrants will also be covered – for example overstayers who arrived legitimately as visitors or on short-term visas but failed to leave. Publicity campaigns will be mounted to encourage so-called ‘hard to reach groups’, including non-English speakers, to have the jab.

NHS trusts have been told there are to be ‘no immigration status checks’ on patients who come forward for vaccination. The same applies to anyone having a Covid test or treatment for the disease, the Mail has learnt.

Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, said: ‘Once people are in our country, it’s in all our interests to contain the virus. So vaccinating everyone whose turn it is on public health grounds, in the end, will protect us all.’

The Department of Health and Social Care will share only ‘limited’ data with the Home Office on anyone who comes forward, it is understood.

It means the identities of irregular migrants will not be passed on to police or immigration officers who are responsible for removing those here illegally. The migrants will have to wait for their place in the jab schedule set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, according to age and health risks.

Alp Mehmet of MigrationWatch UK, which campaigns for tougher border controls, said: ‘We can see the common sense behind this at a time of national emergency when as many people as possible must be vaccinated. But it is a matter of regret that successive governments have been reluctant to come up with solid research on how many people there are in this country with irregular status.

Asylum seekers held inside Napier Barracks head to a meeting with Home Office representatives, January 12, 2021, Folkestone, Kent

‘It would be short-sighted and a wasted opportunity if the Government does not now keep thorough records of how many illegal immigrants come forward. That would be absolutely batty.’

A study by the Pew Research Centre found there were between 800,000 and 1.2million ‘unauthorised immigrants’ in this country in 2017.

Last year, Oxford University’s Migration Observatory looked at studies conducted since 2001 and concluded the figure could be between 120,000 and 1.3million.

GP practices are not required to ask for proof of identity or immigration status when a patient registers. Some may ask for identification, however.

For more complex NHS treatment, such as hospital care, Whitehall guidance says it is ‘residence-based’ which means patients should be asked to prove they are living in the UK lawfully.

However, it is thought many illegal migrants are reluctant to register with a GP for fear they will be reported to immigration officers. 

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