Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Standing up for the medical rights of asylum seekers
  1. Richard E Ashcroft
  1. Correspondence to:
 R E Ashcroft
 Imperial College London, Medical Ethics Unit, Reynolds Building, St Dunstan’s Road, London W6 8RP;

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

When denial of medical treatment is being used as a lever to move people out of the country, ethicists and healthcare professionals should speak out.

An ugly feature of political life throughout the Western world, and beyond, is the suspicion towards, and maltreatment of, migrants from poor to rich countries. People who would otherwise be horrified at being labelled racist nevertheless find it acceptable to support practices which can range from stigmatisation (for instance through requiring failed asylum seekers to pay for basic necessities not with money but with vouchers) to confinement in brutalising conditions in “reception” and “removal” centres.1–5

An hour spent searching through government and NGO websites concerned with the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in developed world countries is an hour well spent – but profoundly depressing. This is not only because of the frankly Orwellian language used by the governments of the UK and Australia (for instance), or because of the conditions and treatment meted out, but also because of the apparent support these practices have among the voting public. In the pointedly optimistic reports of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons, for example, one can find praise for the fact …

View Full Text


  • This editorial was written while the author was a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne. The visit was funded by an Australian Bicentennial Fellowship.