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(16th July 2006) DHR Fast Response to DHR editorial
The editorial on healthcare for asylum seekers was rushed into print before I was allowed to view its final form, and contains important errors of omission and commission.

References 10 and 11 are wrongly numbered and placed in the text. Two phrases of pivotal value have been omitted.

1. The fourth sentence of the penultimate paragraph “The intentions of the authors of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights—that no discrimination should exist in healthcare provision and that national legislation should be enacted that renders it unlawful—have been frustrated” should end as “–have been, as a matter of policy, illegally frustrated” and should be referenced with 4 (as is) plus with what is, as published, erroneously, ref 11 on UN General Comment 9.

There is no doubt that the editing by the BMJ of my original submission has considerably enhanced the readability of the paper and I am very grateful for that, but there is a risk that simplification may partronise or dumb down information.

My preferred ending demonstrates that the UK has not only illegally discriminated against failed asylum seekers, it has also illegally failed to make the discrimination justiciable. This is critically important in demonstrating the degree of the UK’s culpability, in teaching students of health and human rights around the world (who are not necessarily confined to medicine) and in fully informing interested readers. How can readers make an informed decision to protest or defy illegal regulations if they are not fully informed, or doubt they are fully informed?

The UK government representatives, during their dialogue with the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva, as described in ref 4, demonstrated studied disdain towards their obligations to, amongst other things, incorporate the absolute requirement to not discriminate into domestic law. As UN General Comment 9, which, instead of being erroneously referenced as ref 11, should be ref 10 and lie next to ref 4, advises, the Covenant (Article 2.1) does not stipulate the specific means by which the Covenant is to be implemented in the national legal order but that it does require that it to be effective. Given that the UK Government has itself violated the Covenant by discriminating against failed asylum seekers, making non discrimination justiciable would have been the only effective way of preventing the legislation - the Government can hardly break its own laws, or perhaps one should say, the House of Lords will not allow the Government to break its own laws.

2. Lastly, the sentence “A large though difficult to quantify proportion of failed asylum applicants are rejected by an evaluation process that the United Nations, Amnesty International, and the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee have judged inadequate” makes more sense when published as intended “A large though difficult to quantify proportion of failed asylum applicants are, despite having faced appalling experiences, have been rejected by an evaluation process that the United Nations, Amnesty International and the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee have judged inadequate”

The UK has behaved outrageously in deliberately violating international law and the medical profession must take responsibility for campaigning vigorously against it.

Competing interests: None declared

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Web deployment by Rahul Roychoudhuri. DHR is the trading name of Physicians for Human Rights - UK. Registered Company No 3792515. Registered Charity No 1078420   January 21, 2018, 12:57 pm GMT   Copyright Physicians for Human Rights-UK(c)2004
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