The Leprosy Mission is celebrating after learning that its advocacy efforts have prompted the Home Office to reconsider discriminatory immigration guidelines, in a victory for the rights of people affected by the disease.
After receiving a number of letters from our supporters, asking thatmisleading references to leprosy in UK Border Agency guidelines be removed, the Home Office has stated that it will be made clear that no-one will be refused entry to the UK on the grounds of being affected by leprosy.
The guidelines issued to medical referees* considering applications for entry into the UK previously appeared to recommend that people affected by leprosy are refused entry. The Leprosy Mission England & Wales’s advocacy campaign encouraged supporters to write to Minister for Immigration, Damian Green or their own MP in order to highlight the fact that as a condition that is now easily cured by multidrug therapy, leprosy poses no threat to public health.
The Home Office has acknowledged that current guidance is ‘open to misinterpretation’ and that as a result, it will be changed to accurately convey the intent behind the guidelines and the outcome of medical examinations. In future, it will be made clear that if a medical examiner diagnoses leprosy, the person affected will be eligible for a visa once their first dose of multidryug therapy has been administered.
As a Home Office spokesperson told us on Tuesday, ‘Having leprosy is not a ground for refusing a visa or entry into the UK. I understand that in most cases any risk of onward infection can be addressed within a few days of commencing treatment. As such, any grounds to refuse an application will have subsided.’
Siân Arulanantham, TLMEW’s Head of Programmes Co-ordination, said: ‘We are delighted that the Home Office and UK Border Agency have acknowledged the need to change the medical guidelines in relation to leprosy. We appreciate the commitment of our supporters in taking the time to write to the Minister for Immigration and their MPs standing up for the rights of people affected by leprosy, and wish to convey our thanks to the UK Government for taking steps to ensure people affected by leprosy will not be discriminated against.
‘This will strengthen our advocacy case when challenging other governments to change discriminatory legislation.’