Covid-19 and the hostile environment

This situation has shown that we are all linked. If one of us is unsafe, we are all less safe. Society is fragile and is only held together by the kindness of people – by community.

 

Refugees and asylum seekers in the UK are part of our communities and the government needs to remove the restrictions – the hostile environment – that stop us coming together to protect each other and ourselves.

Hospitals should not be a hostile environment

 

The restrictions make no sense in our current times; when physical isolation is a necessity for those feeling sick, when the importance of universal healthcare has never been more stark, when we are all in this together.

 

We join with over 60 organisations and groups of people across the UK in writing a letter to the Prime Minister offering simple policy recommendations that would protect migrants and refugees with insecure migration statuses and people who’re experiencing homelessness.  

 

Any attempts to protect public health, do not work unless they apply to everyone living within our communities. 

 

Physical distancing and Isolation:

This is a fundamentally selfless act that everyone should be able to do to play their part in protecting their neighbourhoods and communities. It is simply not possible to do this when sleeping on the streets.

 

The government should block book hotel rooms as an emergency measure to ensure that 

  1. Everyone has the ability to self-isolate if they have symptoms
  2. Nobody recovering from Covid-19 should be discharged from hospital to go and sleep on the streets
  3. No evictions from Home Office asylum support accommodation

 

Access to healthcare

The hostile environment makes it more difficult for those with insecure migration statuses to access the health service. The sharing of patient information between healthcare institutions and the Home Office has been shown to have a disastrous effect on health. Many cases have been recorded of people avoiding going to hospitals even with significant health problems like tuberculosis as they fear being detained or deported. High costs for medical care for migrants accessing the NHS also deter access. Someone with Covid-19 symptoms cannot afford to be avoiding medical professionals.

 

The government should immediately; 

  1. Abolish all charges for access to NHS care
  2. Confirm that no patient info will be shared with the Home Office

 

Financial support for all

People are losing their jobs everyday now. The government has still not released comprehensive plans to support workers through this. Many refugees and migrants have no access to work, and are prevented from accessing any form of help from the government in a status called – no recourse to public funds. Essentially, no ability to legally work and no social support, leaving people to survive on the work of charities and community groups.

 

With charities and organisations suspending their services, the government must remove these restrictions so that people can access support in order to survive. 

  1. Immediately remove ‘no recourse to public funds’ conditions allowing access Universal Credit, Statutory Sick Pay and other assistance.
  2. Emergency cash available to those without bank accounts
  3. All applicants for section 95, section 4 or schedule 10 support should be automatically and appropriately accommodated within the Home Office asylum support system while applications are being processed.
  4. Any agreement for universal income or financial support for workers should be ‘universal’ and available to all – regardless of migration status.

 

Our communities are pulling together in the most beautiful ways. Although things are uncertain and scary right now, the division of the past few years has never felt further away – things have changed forever. The government’s job now should be acting with responsibility and humanity – enabling and allowing our communities to take care of each other and not continuing policies that were always harmful, but could now be even more so. This pandemic is taking no notice of our migration statuses, what official pieces of paper we possess or the wording on the stamps in our passports.

 

We sign this letter and join with charities and organisations across the UK in the hope that the government sees the common sense of these policy recommendations which both protect some of the most vulnerable people in our societies, and our entire communities.