Last night, the JRS community came together for an informative and engaging online event at our first Accompaniment in Action event of 2021. JRS UK Director Sarah Teather hosted an evening of discussion around the challenges faced by refugee friends when accessing healthcare, and some of the things that JRS UK are doing to help support them. She was joined by JRS Policy Officer Sophie Cartwright, and healthcare and medical professionals who have been helping JRS accompany refugees in accessing healthcare over the last year.
We were also very pleased to welcome refugee friend of JRS Mohamed who shared some of his experiences trying to get help from healthcare services, as a person seeking asylum in the UK.
Over the last few months we have worked to provide support, information & advice to refugee friends in need of vital healthcare, and we have also facilitated and encouraged many refugee friends to receive a COVID vaccine. Jesuit and qualified GP Paul O’Reilly SJ and NHS neurologist Dr Sara Mazzucco shared their experiences of running JRS’s COVID Vaccine Q & A workshops with refugee friends which have been taking place online.
Dr Sara Mazzucco said:
“ I found [the workshops] very instructive for me actually, in some ways challenging. It was in a way pointing to my ignorance really, and to the lack of cultural background our friends do experience on a daily basis, and that must make it very difficult for them to find things that will reassure them or clarify for them their doubts, their worries and anxieties. “
Refugee friend of JRS Mohamed who is a member of JRS’s group, ‘Refugees Call for Change’ , shared his experiences of needing extra support in order to be able to register with a GP, see a doctor when feeling unwell while reporting to the Home Office, or simply accessing medication.
“When I arrived in the UK and when I went [to claim] asylum, they told me very clearly that I don’t have any access to any medical treatment in the UK”
He shared the difficulties of living without the right to work, a situation the majority of those seeking asylum in the UK find themselves in, as they are banned from working.
“At one point I was paying for my own medication and prescriptions, by help from friends and relatives. I’m not working, I don’t have any way of making money.
“It was difficult [getting] to this point, [at] which I’m now getting access for myself in order to treat myself.
He went on to share his experiences being homeless, contracting COVID and he highlighted the underlying need to treat refugees and those seeking asylum with dignity and respect.
“These are the challenges we are going through. We cannot for example change things for ourselves… so these are the things the hostile environment has affected for so many people that are with insecure status. So I think for me I was a bit lucky.
We were very grateful to Abbas Mirza from Barts Health NHS Trust for joining us as a panellist at the event and for working closely with the JRS team in helping to run several vaccination clinics for refugee friends over the last few weeks. He said:
“Thank you to JRS UK for letting me have a small platform to talk about Barts Health NHS Trust’s vaccine work and the importance of community engagement to support frontline organisations and their clients”
We continue to run small vaccination clinics for refugee friends, facilitated by Barts Health NHS Trust at the JRS centre in East London, and our team are working tirelessly to provide support and advice for our friends who are trying to access healthcare.
We were inspired by the work shared at our online event and hopeful about future thinking around supporting refugees and those seeking asylum in the local community.
You can watch a recording of the full ‘Access to Healthcare’ event on our Facebook Page.