[Extract] Q94 Stuart C. McDonald: Good morning to our witnesses. I want to turn now to the issue of asylum accommodation, particularly contingency accommodation, including military barracks. Mr Rycroft, can I ask you first about some of the advice and research the Home Office has done? We have received a lot of evidence that the military barracks are in pretty disgraceful conditions and that there are wider problems with contingency accommodation, so I want to dig down into what the Home Office relies on when it disputes that evidence. For example, could I ask about the following documents and whether they are publicly available? There is an equality impact assessment about the use of barracks that has featured in the newspapers. Is that publicly available?
The Home Office says that people are assessed as to their suitability for life in the camps – Penally and Napier – people who have been sent to the camps said that there was no assessment carried out to their knowledge, other than on first arrival when they may not have fully understood the situation or the language (or interpreter).
In relation to social distancing, people who have been living in the camps describe sharing sleeping areas with many other people, having to use communal showers, sharing toilets with many others, eating in a large area which everyone is expected to use, one communal room for socialising for everyone where the internet signal could be found and the (two) TVs were kept.
This blog was written by Ruth, a member of Migrants Organise, following an organising training session with a number of other Migrants Organise members.
UK is in a third lockdown. But how is it for undocumented migrants?
Life continues as normal. Everyone is told to stay at home to control the virus and to save the NHS. If you are an Asylum Seeker or an Undocumented migrant you can’t afford to stay at home as you have to survive because you are not entitled to Universal Credit or to be furloughed from your job. If you are displaying symptoms of Covid, you cannot isolate as you have to work to provide for basic essential needs.
We are scared to go to the GP or the hospital because you might be asked to provide ID and to prove your immigration status which can be embarrassing, as you can be turned away from receiving medical help.
I spoke to a friend who is undocumented yesterday, and this is what she told me:
2 February 2021: Yesterday, a representative from one the organisations that are a part of the Status Now Network told the Network’s regular Monday night Reference Group meeting about how they were trying to comfort someone whose friend has just died from Covid-19, and whose entire community is reeling with the depth and scale of their losses.
The person who died is in her late fifties. She came to UK about 20 years ago as a domestic worker leaving her child behind so that she could financially support him from a distance, which is common in situations of profound poverty back home. People become undocumented for many reasons and she too became undocumented.
Following the fire at Napier camp on 29 January 2021, we have received the following letter from Napier Camp residents. Please read the letter below from 22 January 2021 also.
30 January 2021: Dear all, As one of the residents in Napier Barracks and on behalf of so many of my friends here, I want to express my sadness and sorrow for what had happened yesterday. It was horrible to see a building burning, see the fear in everyone’s eyes and to see the staff in difficulty and pain. We want to say how sorry and disappointed we are, that this incident affected people. Especially the staff, firefighters, police and etc.
As you all know, living in a terrible condition and unsafe when it comes to Covid, affected all the residents physically and mentally. Their protests, hunger strikes and suicide attempts were all ignored from the Home Office. This incident was not something that we all wanted to happen.
People respond to anger differently. Each of us react in our own unique way when we are desperate and disappointed. Some may protest peacefully, some refuse to eat, some commit suicide and when you are even more ignored some may lose control. I want you all know that this was not something that we all can approve. The majority of us are against violence as we escaped it.
Words cannot express our shame and sadness, our solidarity with the ones who are affected by it.
I also want to ask the Home Office and other authorities to take action against violence and also make sure that Napier Barracks will be closed as it is no longer safe and secure. It is mandatory to see the people in camps as human beings and desperate people. We are all the same, thus we all express our emotions differently when we are under pressure. Last but not least, we all want to thank the police and firefighters who helped everyone to be safe and fine.
2020 October 10: There was a Vigil this evening commemorating lives destroyed by the hostile environment, and remembering the death ten years ago of Jimmy Mubenga at the hands of G4S guards as he was being removed from UK; and others who have died due to this hostile environment … #SolidarityKnowsNoBorders
From the heart: How many more people will this Government kill? Mercy Baguma is the latest victim in the growing number of people who have died at the hand of the inhumane and immoral “hostile environment” policy instituted by this Government against refugees and migrants.
Organisations in the Status Now Network are witnessing every day the desperation and destitution caused by this policy which has been intensified by COVID-19 pandemic.
We are currently supporting hundreds of men, women and children, who have been made impoverished and destitute because of these punitive and draconian immigration policies. These include 15 Filipino women who are pregnant or with young children, who are destitute and impoverished because they have no recourse to public funds and nor are they allowed to work. Instead they are relying on the support of a small community organisations to survive.
We call for the regularisation of these vulnerable people.
We hold the Government responsible for Mercy’s death and the destitution and suffering of hundreds of other women like Mercy Baguma who are undocumented in the UK, and their children.
In his London flat, Rogelio Braga was busy typing on his laptop, in between answering emails, queries, and interviews from his caseworker. Rogelio was writing a play entitled Miss Philippines. No, it is not about statuesque beauties whose feet barely touched the earth. It is about real women, lesbian, and transgender women, barely surviving the life in the slums under Duterte’s war on drugs.
It is the same play he submitted to the Yellow Earth Theater earlier in 2020 and has been awarded £2000 seed commissions to develop new plays as part of the Professional Writers Programme 2020-22.
Allaine (not her real name) came to the UK, on a domestic worker visa in 2017. She looked after a 2 year old twin and 2 other children for a couple from Qatar. They had been badly abusing her both when they were in Quatar, and in the UK. They continued to beat her and verbally abuse her, and often only gave her left overs to eat. They also kept her passport from her.
One day she managed to escape her employers with the help of a neighbour, and she was referred to the National Referral Mechanism -NRM for trafficked people. Allaine was traumatised by the persistent physical and verbal abuse of her employers.
The NRM recognised her as a trafficked person but she still has no decision from the Home Office about her status.
Carla and her husband Cedic, who have been in the UK since 2013, have a 6 months old child. They live in a room in a 7 bedroom house with at least 13 other undocumented workers, one of the rooms is occupied by another family with two children and other residents are health care workers in the NHS.
They work as domestic workers in two different private households.
Cedic looks after an elderly man. Because of the lockdown, they were told by their employers not to report to work anymore and they will not receive any pay. They are very worried because of living with their baby in their cramped accommodation and some of their housemates are exposed to the virus in the hospital.
They are worried about having money for their food and rent. They are also anxious about their families back home in the Philippines, as they are no longer able to send financial support to them.
Carla and Cedic each have children in the Philippines from earlier marriages. They are also both supporting their elderly parents. They fear that if the lockdown lasts a long time they are going to go hungry and their families in the Philippines will also go hungry.
Irene (not her real name) came to the UK in 2013, brought here as his maid by her rich Saudi employer. Her pay was only £200 per month working long hours every day 7 days a week. She looked after 5 children as well as doing all the house- work. She escaped from her employer one day and has stayed in the UK without documentation.
She got a job as a carer for a couple who were both severely ill – the man had a brain tumour and the woman had breast cancer. Irene looked after them for many years until the main died from the tumour.