Migrants Disadvantaged by the New Quarantine Rules

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Stricter border controls have been introduced last week in the UK. From the 15th of February onwards, travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries will need to pay £1,750 for one adult to stay in government-approved quarantine hotels located near airports. 

Previously, all those arriving in the UK had to self-isolate at home. Now, people who visited or transited through 33 travel destinations, including Brazil and Portugal, will need to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.

People standing at hotel window in hotel quarantine adversely affecting migrants
Travellers arriving in the UK will need to quarantine in hotels [Image: Evening Standard]

The newly-introduced measures are supposed to stop people from going on holidays in fears of them bringing new virus strains back to the UK. Nevertheless, holidays are not the only reason for people flying abroad. Sometimes travel is essential, especially for the many migrants who come here for work or to live, while their families remain in a different country.

Because of the hotel quarantine, for the foreseeable future, they may not be able to go home and see their loved ones nor will the family be able to visit them due to costs. Many people have been separated from their families for many months now. That, in addition to other restrictions that are in place can take a toll on mental wellbeing and family life.

Costly Quarantine

£1,750 represents the price of the 10 days long stay for a single person in one room. Additional adults in the room cost £650 and children between 5-12 years add £325 to the total. For a couple or small family, that is higher than the monthly salary of a person working full-time for the National Minimum Wage.

In 2019, migrants represented 30% of those working in the hospitality sector.  Because of the lockdown restrictions, many of them have either lost their jobs or experience income losses. Even if they are on the furlough scheme, they receive only 80% of their previous salary. That is usually a few hundred pounds less than the price of the stay in a quarantine hotel. 

Sometimes travel is essential, especially for the many migrants who come here for work or to live, while their families remain in a different country

Currently, only those who are already in receipt of income-related benefits can apply for a deferred repayment plan, which allows them to pay back the full price of the hotel quarantine over 12 months. However, the state restricts access to benefits of those who require visas to live and work in the UK under the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition. For many migrants, a stay in a quarantine hotel would provide little other option than paying a large upfront cost without eligibility for financial help.

International Students Trapped

There are practically no exemptions from the hotel quarantine. Even those who travel with small kids have to spend 10 days in one hotel room.

Due to the no recourse to public funds condition, a stay in a quarantine hotel presents migrants with no other option than a large upfront cost

Migrants are not the only group negatively affected by the new rule. Students, who often rely on their parents support, cannot afford to spend this much money on a 10-day long stay in a hotel. Consequently, many international students are now not able to come back to the UK even if they are still paying rent for flats or university accommodation here. 

Matilde, an EU student studying at Lancaster University, described her frustration to The Tab over the lack of support from her university, despite encouraging them to study there. ‘The uni has done the bare minimum so they can tick the boxes.

‘There hasn’t been any genuine support and the real issues haven’t been addressed.’ International students are paying upwards of £18,000 in fees with no access to maintenance loans. They are now also faced with huge costs of paying for accommodation which they cannot leave, on top of testing and quarantine to be able to continue their studies.

The new quarantine rules, particularly the price of the stay in a government-approved hotel, should be reconsidered as they are extremely detrimental to a big part of the UK’s population. Though travel restrictions are important in counteracting the spread of the pandemic, more must be done to support migrants adversely affected by the regulations.

Header image: [Govind Krishnan on Unsplash]