Activists and campaigners are petitioning to the government to grant Leave to Remain status for asylum seekers in Britain amid the coronavirus pandemic to provide each individual with access to accommodation, healthcare and support for basic necessities such as food.
Manchester-based campaigners Refugee & Asylum Participatory Action Research (RAPAR) have written an open letter to demand all those with indefinite immigration status to be given the legal right to remain in the UK.
37 organisations in Britain and Ireland have backed the appeal, signing the letter sent to ministers this week.
The letter calls for equality regardless of immigration status, stating it is “in everyone’s best interests” that the most vital needs of every person currently in the UK are met.
It says: “Everyone has the right to be in an environment where they can follow the public-health directives necessary to limit COVID-19 viral transmission to the absolute minimum.”
If evictions were pushed forward, it would condemn thousands of people to extreme suffering and put themselves and the public’s health at high risk, potentially prolonging the pandemic
Individuals without immigration status and who are resigned to destitution due to lack of governmental support cannot use NHS care, access a form of income (whether welfare or work) and various other local authority or governmental support.
Campaigners have stated that asylum seekers are unable to keep themselves and therefore others safe during the coronavirus pandemic due to the lack of support available. The particularly vulnerable are undocumented migrants: without registration and financial support, they become markedly easy to exploit, for example in the sex industry or through unscrupulous employment in ‘high risk’ trafficking sectors.
Without registration and financial support, they become markedly easy to exploit
Fizza Qureshi of Migrant Rights’ Network (MRN), a signatory of the letter, said the government must provide a “humane response” for the individuals who are at risk.
RAPAR’s Rhetta Moran, echoing Manchester’s famous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, said: “Deeds not words save lives and create futures worth living.”
All organisations who have signed and expressed support of the letter have reiterated the key message that we must ensure all people in the UK are able to keep themselves safe. Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union’s (BFAWU) National President, Ian Hodson, stressed how leaving some individuals without access to healthcare will have a knock-on effect. It is in the best interests of all that every individual is supported.
Hodson added: “The health, safety and welfare of us all is dependent on making the right choices.”
The Home Office has announced that evictions of asylum-seekers are being put on hold for the duration of the pandemic – some welcome news for all asylum-seekers and their supporters.
As we are seeing worldwide, the health of a population includes everyone, regardless of status
Immigration Minister Chris Philip said the policy would be reviewed in June.
The British Red Cross’s Alex Fraser said the eviction ban means almost 50,000 people will be safeguarded from being made destitute and homeless. This is a step in the right direction: if evictions were pushed forward, it would condemn thousands of people to extreme suffering and put themselves and the public’s health at high risk, potentially prolonging the pandemic.
Eviction of asylum seekers, with or without a pandemic, is a barbaric practice, but at least the eviction ban gives campaigners some leverage to fight for this legislation to continue post-pandemic.
[Header image: Jon Tyson/Unsplash.]