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Refugees, asylum and immigration

Helping people seeking asylum access health care

What are people seeking asylum entitled to when they access health care?

The human right to health applies to everyone, regardless of immigration status. 

Find out what people seeking asylum are entitled to when they access health care.

We worked with RightsInfo to produce this video. 

No matter what your immigration status, everyone in the UK is entitled to free emergency and primary healthcare.

This includes anyone seeking asylum in the UK.

People seeking asylum have the same access to healthcare as any British citizen.

People seeking asylum are more likely to have particular health needs because of distressing experiences and the traumatic effect of fleeing to a different country.

But there are barriers to accessing healthcare like trying to navigate new systems, new cultures and a new language.

We talked to people about their experiences.

“I spoke some English, so that helped me a lot. If I had less language skills, I would really struggle”

What should happen?

People must be given information in a way that can understand. If there’s a language barrier, an interpreter should be provided.

“Accessing care in the UK as an asylum seeker is fine if you have the papers.”

What should happen?

Everyone can register with a GP without the need to prove their identity or address. But Showing one of these documents can help avoid delays and misunderstandings:

HC2 certificate

an Application Registration Card (ARC)

or documents from the Home Office showing that the individual has applied for asylum.

People are often worried that they’ll be turned away from healthcare.

“I have fear about whether I will be treated or not at a GP or the hospital ... I don’t want this asthma attack because I don’t know what I’ll find at the hospital”

What should happen?

Everyone seeking asylum should be able to access free healthcare whether it's at a doctor’s surgery or a hospital.

"We really struggled. He was diagnosed with a lot of medical conditions, so we had to pay a lot. We had to choose between food and prescriptions. It was really hard."

What should happen?

People seeking asylum should be given an HC2 certificate when they are granted support from the Home Office. The HC2 certificate shows that they are entitled to free prescription medication and help with other health costs.

People’s health information can only be used to inform Home Office decisions about the location or nature of accommodation and support, or any immediate emergency treatment.

An application for asylum in the UK should not be affected by any illness a person has or any treatment they are receiving.

Anyone seeking asylum has the right to healthcare, like every other person living in the UK.

"When you have health, you have everything."

This is just the start.

Taking a human rights approach to healthcare will help to remove more barriers and provide people seeking asylum with the healthcare they need.

Find out more at

Equality and Human Rights Commission, made in partnership with RightsInfo.

How to help people seeking asylum access healthcare

If you work with people seeking asylum, or work in a related area of policy, our guidance will help you ensure people in the asylum system enjoy their right to health.

Practical guide
A guide for organisations working with people seeking asylum on helping people access healthcare

Case studies
Examples of healthcare and service providers facilitating access to healthcare for people seeking asylum


diverse group of people

The barriers people seeking asylum face when accessing healthcare: our research

  • A doctor takes a patient's blood pressure

    Review of evidence

    A review of existing evidence looking at the barriers people seeking or refused asylum face in trying to access healthcare services.

  • Doctor and patient using a translation service via telephone

    Lived experiences

    Read our research on the lived experiences of people seeking and refused asylum trying to access healthcare.

  • A doctor performs a health check on a patient at a Doctors of the World clinic in London


    We made recommendations to government and healthcare providers on improving access to healthcare for people seeking asylum.

Last updated: 08 Apr 2019