undocumented migrants temporary leave to remain

Migrants Need Temporary Leave to Remain During COVID-19

A coalition of charities has called on the government to grant temporary leave to remain to all undocumented migrants amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The demands have been made in an open letter to Boris Johnson, which highlights the ‘dire circumstances’ facing undocumented migrants due to the lack of support available to them. 

With working prohibited and public funds inaccessible, being undocumented places a person at an increased risk of destitution and homelessness. Although charities play a pivotal role in counteracting these issues, they are unable to provide their full range of services due to social distancing measures. 

Informal support networks also help stave off homelessness and food poverty, with many undocumented migrants relying on friends for help in this regard. Yet this lifeline is also under threat, with many migrants who were staying with friends being asked to leave. 

With working prohibited and public funds inaccessible, an insecure immigration status places a person at increased risk of destitution and homelessness.

Granting temporary leave to remain would provide individuals in this situation with vital security at a time when it is most needed. The letter states that any grant of leave to remain should include ‘recourse to public funds’- this will help undocumented migrants to afford essential items and a more stable form of accommodation. 

An alliance of charities has called for all undocumented migrants to be granted temporary leave to remain. [Image: Forbes/GettyImages]

According to The Guardian, one migrant supported by Women for Refugee Women was forced to sleep on a night bus and then in a London park for two nights, despite having assistance from charities.  

As the Jesuit Refugee Service point out:

 ‘Homelessness makes social distancing and self-isolation impossible, and increases vulnerability to infection’.

Granting temporary leave to remain would provide individuals in this situation with vital security at a time when it is most needed.

The letter also states that temporary leave to remain should include access to the labour market. 

Not only will the ability to work provide a potential means of income to those who need it most, it will enable more people to join our national struggle against COVID-19. 

At a time when everything must be done to limit the spread of infection, this could prove invaluable.

The letter argues that:

“We cannot afford to have trained nurses, doctors, care workers and other key workers barred from contributing to society when they are desperately needed. This will bring people out of the shadows and into the workforce.”

Undocumented migrants face barriers to healthcare
Temporary leave to remain would ensure undocumented migrants could access the healthcare they need. [Image: Royal Cornwall NHS]

Undocumented migrants are also more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to the difficulties they face in accessing healthcare. Data-sharing between NHS Trusts and immigration enforcement means that patients can have their details passed on to the Home Office, causing many to be too afraid to seek much-needed treatment.

Although the government has stated that immigration checks are not required for COVID-19 patients, the letter points out that:

“…people without secure immigration status are deterred from accessing treatment by the knowledge that, should they test negative for COVID-19… their data may be passed to the Home Office.” 

“People are also deterred from seeking healthcare for underlying conditions – and these conditions ultimately make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Difficulty in accessing medical care means that people are likely to present late to health services by which time their health problems have become more severe.”

Granting temporary leave to remain would strip away all barriers to healthcare completely, ensuring that all people are equally safeguarded. 

“…people without secure immigration status are deterred from accessing treatment by the knowledge that, should they test negative for COVID-19… their data may be passed to the Home Office.”

With undocumented migrants at an increased risk of destitution, homelessness and ill-health purely due to their immigration status, the move would ensure they are not left behind. 

In response to the letter, a government spokesperson said: 

“We have been very clear that anyone experiencing coronavirus symptoms will be treated for free, regardless of their immigration status, and emphasised to NHS trusts that no immigration checks are required.

“However, those seeking to establish their family life in the UK must do so on a legal basis, which is why we have no recourse to public funds provisions in place if someone has no legal right to be here.”

Written by
Cameron Boyle