Simba Mugakashi, a personal trainer, was just 29 years old in June 2019 when he suffered a stroke that left him in a coma. When he woke up, he was paralyzed on the left side and could not speak or eat.
The stroke could have been prevented with a relatively inexpensive drug for a blood-clotting condition that, as a rejected asylum seeker, is ineligible for the NHS.
Now Majakshi, who has lived in the UK since he was a child, owes nearly £ 100,000 for life-saving emergency treatment – a staggering amount that he doesn’t know how to repay.
“No one can pay £ 100,000, who has that? I look at the bill and think, this is a house,” he said.
Mojkachi’s cause has received great support in Sheffield and across the UK. Sheffield Hallam Labor MP Olivia Blake spoke in Parliament on her behalf and a petition filed by her partner Melissa Smith, calling for the cancellation of her debts, attracted 75,000 signatures.
The petition will be presented to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield during a protest on Saturday to call for an end to charging immigrants for NHS treatment, as part of a set of “hostile environment” policies introduced between 2014 and 2017 aimed at aim to restrict access to the public. services and making life in the UK more difficult for undocumented immigrants.
Activists say charging, which the funds can do at 150% of the cost of treatment, intentionally prevents some of the most vulnerable in society from getting medical help.
This was certainly true for Mogaci, who prior to her stroke had stopped taking medication and attending medical appointments because she believed her debt to the NHS of more than £ 500 would lead to her asylum claim being denied, which began in 2009.
The Home Office said that while debt owed to the NHS is a factor in granting immigration applications in general, it does not apply to people with an asylum application or an appeal in process.
However, between appeals, he was charged with treatment and asked to pay cash in advance, which he did not have and felt it was a “deliberate act” that was “calculated” to dissuade him from using the NHS.
He said: “It all started when they gave me a bill for £ 6000, which was for prescriptions and things like that. I didn’t understand myself – £ 6000 was already too much.
“The only way I could have paid for it was to stop going on dates. I had no other choice.”
“If they let me go through the normal channels to take my medicine, they wouldn’t have to save my life.”
In the end, Mujkashi’s asylum claims were rejected, although he was not told whether it was due to outstanding debts. He is now a “rejected asylum seeker”, at risk of being deported to Zimbabwe, where he was born and where the government is looking for his father, Victor, for speaking out against Robert Mugabe.
Mujakachi cannot file another appeal unless he can provide new evidence to support his claim that he is in danger if sent to Zimbabwe. But he said gathering new evidence is nearly impossible because he hasn’t lived there in nearly 20 years.
He said that he felt as if he had spent his adult life in an open prison. She said: “My only crime was seeking safety and asylum.”
“They’ve lost about 4240 days because of this. Plus, I’m down now. The system is set up to be really tough and I’ve become a victim as a result.”
Although he is now recovered enough to talk and take short walks with poles, due to his immigrant status, he is not allowed to work and is not entitled to disability assistance.
His partner, an English language and literature student, supported him. He had a great interest in top-tier politics and would like to work in this field, although it will not be easy.
“Even if he could work now, I think he would find it very difficult because I need serious help with daily activities,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the trust was “comprehensive” but “has no choice but to comply with national legislation on charging for care when a patient is not eligible for free NHS care.”
“Right now, we just don’t have the authority to get out of the legislation,” they added.
The Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England did not respond to requests for comment.