More than 78,000 people have signed a petition to help write off a Sheffield asylum seeker’s £93,000 NHS debt for the care he needed to save his life.
32-year-old Simbarashe Mujakachi came to the UK with his family in 2004 from Zimbabwe. His father, Victor, was a student at the time and emigrated with Simba, his mother and two brothers.
In 2010, Victor applied for asylum in the UK after a warrant for his arrest was issued in Zimbabwe after he criticised the government.
Despite Victor facing imprisonment if he returned to their home country, the family was refused leave to remain by the Home Office.
Since then, he has been fighting to have his right to asylum recognised. But just two years ago, Simbarashe experienced a life-threatening haemorrhagic stroke which left him partially paralysed, and in a coma for over two weeks.
‘The system failed me… I’ll never got those years back.”
He was charged £93,000 by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for his care, as a ‘refused asylum seeker’.
His status means he is not allowed to work, and no longer considered ‘ordinarily resident’ and is charged for his NHS care due to changes brought in under the Immigration Act 2014.
However Simba’s brother and father have been granted status. Simbarashe said he is grateful to the NHS for ”saving his life” but believes the system has failed him.
”I would love to pay it back if I could, but I cant. I can’t work because of my status. I don’t know what kind of job I could have that would pay such a bill. My life is just stagnant and I’m scared to live.”
Campaigners said if his application was accepted by the Home Office, he could have avoided having the stroke if he had access to healthcare he needed.
He was known to have a blood clotting condition and had been receiving treatment, but he stopped attending after the Trust demanded payment of over £6,000, which he could not afford.
A government spokesperson for the Home Office said an individual’s outstanding debt to the NHS ”will not have any impact on their asylum claim and to suggest otherwise is wrong.”
“All asylum claims are considered fairly and based on the individual’s risk of persecution, in accordance with our international obligations.”
However, Aliya Yule, Migrant Organiser for the Healthcare for All Campaign, said access to healthcare is a common issue. She said the NHS needs to return to its principle that everyone should have access to healthcare, no matter their immigration status, or where they’re from.
The Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said they are ‘sympathetic’ to Mr Mujakachi’s situation, but they had ‘no choice’ but to adhere to national legislation.
”Over the past two years we have stayed in contact with Mr Mujakachi and his support team in terms of his ongoing applications to change his status and we have made it clear that should that change we will respond accordingly. At this point in time we simply do not have the authority to go outside the legislation.” ITV News