27 January 2021: Guardian: Journalist Corinne Redfern discusses the impact the pandemic has had on the Filipino women trapped overseas, including Mimi (not her real name) who works for a wealthy family in London for just £5 an hour. Mimi was asked to keep working through the first lockdown with the family coaching her on what to say if the police stopped her. In her spare time, Mimi helps other overseas workers escape situations where they are being abused
Anushka Asthana talks to the journalist Corinne Redfern from The Fuller Project about the impact the pandemic has had on the thousands of Filipino women who are stranded overseas. The Philippine government says that approximately one third of its 10 million citizens overseas are women working in “elementary” jobs – a term widely interpreted as referring to domestic workers who are paid low wages to clean homes, cook meals and care for wealthy families, often under horrendous conditions. Human Rights Watch has long described migrant domestic workers, thousands of miles away from home and hidden out of sight in strangers’ houses, as one of the world’s most vulnerable demographics.
Please also read the report from Kanlungan Filipino Consortium:
June 2020: We have officially launched our report on precarious Filipino migrants amid the UK’s coronavirus outbreak. Our report focuses on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and associated ‘lockdown’ in the UK on Filipino precarious migrants (a majority undocumented). The report finds that the systematic disenfranchisement of migrants through the “hostile environment” agenda has exacerbated the negative effects of the pandemic and lockdown on this group. The coronavirus pandemic has intensified and highlighted the deadly effects of the hostile environment. But it also reveals the life threatening inequalities that already existed before the outbreak.
Executive Summary: “Give a chance for all [those] without papers, like me, to feel safe” –Shane’s message to policy-makers
This report documents the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and associated ‘lockdown’ in the UK on Filipino precarious migrants (a majority undocumented). It is based on research conducted in May and June 2020, including an online survey with 78 respondents, and 15 follow-up interviews.
The report finds that the systemic disenfranchisement of migrants through the “hostile environment” agenda has exacerbated the negative effects of the pandemic and lockdown on this group. The coronavirus pandemic has intensified and highlighted the deadly effects of the hostile environment. But it also reveals the life-threatening inequalities that already existed before the outbreak.
Emerging most urgently in the participants’ accounts were the ways that hostile environment policies:
•Forced precarious migrants into informal, exploitative employment. “No work no pay” means that people are caught between the dangers of contracting or spreading the virus at work, or falling into destitution.
•Deterred precarious migrants from seeking healthcare due to the fear of being reported to immigration authorities and charged prohibitive costs for treatment.
•Pushed precarious migrants into temporary, overcrowded housing conditions that made social distancing impossible, and put them at risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
•Created constant fear and isolation that severed precarious migrants from support networks and was damaging to their mental health.
A recent report by Public Health England acknowledges the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people. Yet it fails to account for those whose migratory status deterred them from seeking diagnosis and treatment, and who therefore remain invisible in national statistics.
For precarious migrants, including those without legal status (known in the community as undocumented) or with no right to work or recourse to public funds, many of the initiatives put in place by the government to mitigate the effects of the pandemic for at-risk populations, employees, businesses, tenants and public mental health were effectively meaningless. That is why, on 27th March 2020, the Status Now Network was launched with the hashtag #healthandsafetyforall. Yet at the time of writing, their lack of access to healthcare and financial support has already cost lives and pushed many to the brink of destitution.
Distinctively, this cohortof participants contained a large proportion of domestic and care workers, whose work depends on close physical contact with others. It is noteworthy that while the UKis celebrating care workers and keyworkers as heroes, the workforce of informally employed migrant carers and cleaners has remained invisible.
Yet the experiences of this cohort are in many ways prismatic of other precarious migrants in the UK. This is because the barriers that prevent them and their families from leading safe, healthy and rewarding lives are systemic.
This report recommends that keeping precarious migrants – and by extension the general public –safe from coronavirus demands systems-level change at the intersection of immigration and public health.