Immigration Victory

People with leprosy no longer automatically refused entry to the UK

People with leprosy will no longer automatically be refused entry to the UK following The Leprosy Mission’s advocacy work with the Home Office. Guidance previously issued by the UK Border Agency to medical referees* considering applications for entry into the UK previously recommended that people affected by leprosy are refused entry.

In support of the UN principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against people affected by leprosy, The Leprosy Mission England & Wales campaigned for the reference to leprosy to be removed from the guidance. The international development charity’s campaign encouraged supporters to write to Immigration Minister Damian Green or their own MP highlighting the fact that as leprosy is now easily treated by multidrug therapy (antibiotics), it poses no threat to public health.

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said while it can refuse entry on health grounds, the previous published visa application guidance “could be open to misinterpretation” in relation to people with leprosy.

He said: “We have amended the guidance to make it clear that having leprosy is not grounds alone for visa refusal.”

The UK Border Agency says individuals with leprosy will instead be signposted to treatment which may delay their visa application for a few days while they commence medication, as opposed to being automatically refused permission to travel altogether.

The spokesman said: “We thank The Leprosy Mission for informing us of this discrepancy. The UK Border Agency continually reviews its guidance and will take appropriate action when alerted by others to inaccuracies.”

Siân Arulanantham, Head of Programmes Co-ordination at The Leprosy Mission England & Wales, said: “We are delighted the Home Office has changed the medical guidance in relation to leprosy.

“People with leprosy are among the most stigmatised in the world and the previous guidance only served to reinforce prejudices. 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.”

* UK Border Agency, Medical Issues Guidelines, MED6 What are the objectives and criteria for the medical recommendation?

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