Policy context

Legislation to protect and fulfil human rights


The UK government has put in place some domestic measures and legislation compatible with international human rights laws to protect and fulfil human rights. Notable among them are the Equality Act (2010) and Human Rights Act (1998) both of which set the principles to help ensure that international human rights standards are respected, implemented and enforced at the national and local levels.  According to NHS England (2015), key policy guidance in England includes:-

  • Department of Health Human Rights in Healthcare
  • Equality Race Commission – New Equality Act Guidance
  • NHS Constitution
  • NHS  England  (2015),  Accessible Information Standard
  • NHS  England  (2015),  NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard
  • NHS  England  (2015),  The Equality Delivery System
  • NHS England (2015), Monitoring Equality and Health Inequalities: A Position Paper.

The UK government has also set up Expert Organisations to advise the government on relevant matters related to the health of asylum seekers and refugees. These include The Equality and Human Rights Commission (England, Wales), NHS Employers, and the NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights. In addition, the UK has extensive provisions in place to provide protection to persons seeking asylum and individuals who may exploited whilst seeking asylum. However, Syrian nationals under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Refugees Scheme do not follow this asylum process as they are already recognised as refugees. Nonetheless, Syrian nationals who arrive in the UK outside of this scheme may still claim asylum upon arrival and follow the same process. Figure 3 explains the asylum process in the UK.


The European Convention on Human Rights (1950) and the UN Refugee Convention (1951) are two key international legislations that inform the UK domestic laws on asylum seekers and refugees. However, it is important to emphasise that the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Refugee Convention have not been directly incorporated into UK domestic law, even though their provisions influence the formulation of immigration rules.

At the Global Health Summit (2016), the members of the M8 Alliance reinforced that everyone has the right under international law to the highest standards of physical and mental health.  It also called for action to develop strategies that can respond to the needs of asylum seekers and refugees.  The Global Health Summit acknowledged the need to monitor the follow-up to these commitments and to ensure the full accountability of UN organizations, humanitarian actors and nation states.