The Status Now Network held a webinar event on Saturday 11th July 2020, 4pm to 6pm, to launch the national Status Now Network and the #statusnow4all campaign. There is a recording of the event below, and also videos that were shown at the event
At the end of March the Network called on the British Prime Minister and Irish Taoiseach to grant leave to remain, Status Now, to all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the legal process in both the UK and Ireland, to ensure their and others’ safety during the Covid-19 pandemic. The open letter to the heads of states has received over 65 organisational signatories, the online petition has gained over 3,700 signatories and counting, and an EDM #658 (early day motion) calling for Leave to Remain has been put down in the UK Parliament.
This launch celebrated the newly-formed Status Now Network with cultural events, and included discussions from people with lived experience of being undocumented, MPs and some of our signatories, conversation and sharing of ideas.
Here are the recordings of the event:
The programme was as follows:
The launch was Chaired by Nazek Ramadan of Migrant Voice.
Claudia Webbe who is the Labour Party Member of Parliament for Leicester East opened our Launch. She has sponsored Early Day Motion – EDM #658 which stands with our letter as a call for all undocumented people to be given Leave to Remain.
Chris Stephens is Scottish National Party Member of Parliament for Glasgow South West. He supports the EDM, and we welcome him to speak for a few minutes about this. Chris sent a video which arrived too late to be shown, however please take time to watch it here:
Aneez Esmail is Professor of General Practice: University of Manchester, and works as a GP in Manchester. He is busy right now and so pre-recorded his contribution to this launch.
We have a number of people amongst us who have experience of being undocumented, and who gave a short piece of their testimony. Some were comfortable about making themselves known, and others were not, and so some used their own name, and others were known by another name: Vitalis, Rose, Ana and Shaista.
Here is our first artistic contribution, from our friend Blesilda Closa. She is a Filipino chanter:
The Status Now letter was sent out on 27 March 2020, so what has the Status Now team done so far? Loraine Mponela explained the journey so far. Loraine is the chairperson of CARAG – Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group which is an organization run by and for people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants, and a founder member of the Reference Group driving the campaign.
#StatusNow4All by Loraine Mponela
I will start by quoting Dr Martin Luther King who said: “Freedom…must be fought for, protected, and handed on for [our children] to do the same.” – Because of our prior knowledge and experience of what it’s like trying to live in the UK without status we knew, as soon as the COVID19 lock down was announced in mid March, that people without Status were going to be, immediately, at a very significant disadvantage for lots of reasons including:
• Having barely enough money to eat, never mind make ourselves or keep ourselves healthy and therefore less likely to become sick
• Being without a home or living in very overcrowded accommodation and therefore not being able to self-isolate if one of us gets sick, or protect ourselves if someone else where we live with gets sick
• Not being able to access a doctor or a hospital in case we get reported because of our status and then detained or deported
• Working a job that’s under the radar and therefore doesn’t offer any protection whatsoever in terms of a wage or being furloughed during lockdown, or basic health and safety.
Knowing this, the only way that we could see for us to protect ourselves, each other, and everyone around us was to offer a way for the State to communicate with us – undocumented people and our networks of allies – directly. We put out the call for Status Now, we wrote ( https://statusnow4all.org/about-status-now/ ) the Prime Minister of the UK and of the Republic of Ireland because we understood that we too are an essential part of creating a public health response to COVID-19 that actually does everything necessary to both stop people becoming infected with the virus and stop people from passing it on.
On March 27th of this year we sent the Open Letter and petition ( http://chng.it/gsvXHrHwGp ) a combination of people without status and our allies. Prior to this time, we have always been in the shadows, never really talked about or acknowledged as existing in this society, living lives in the shadows without any real rights and open to being exploited and oppressed because of not having those rights.
When we created this call for Status Now we understood that we have to be visible in a way that makes it possible for us to be a part of the creating the future solution: How this land is going to move forward in ways that make it possible for every member of its population to be healthy and safe and able to look after each other?
In future, we want this network to develop with direct and increasing participation, shaping and decision making by people with lived experience of what it’s like to live in the UK without status, alongside people with that status. We want this network to continue to grow, sustainably, describing and explaining why it is in the interests of everyone who is currently living in the UK for those of us without status to have equal access to healthcare, housing and food.
So who are we?
“Many of us are qualified to work in essential services and many of us can and do work. As we have heard already during this launch, several of us have died already during this pandemic, working as carers for others or too frightened to seek the medical help that we needed for fear of being imprisoned or deported. Many of us are commonwealth citizens and are here directly because of the UK’s foreign policy, both in the past and up to the present day, because people do, and continue to come to the UK: some for asylum, some to be with family, some seeking a life without the war and famine and environmental destruction that has happened in their own lands at the hands of aggressive invaders or multinational corporations. People have moved here to survive. And what’s wrong with that?
I myself am here, denied the right to work legally but helping others all the time throughout this Covid crisis, supporting people and offering information, advice and food as a part of the networks within my community here in Coventry and the West Midlands. I know that I am part of the solution alongside everyone else who is here today to be a part of this launch. If you are undocumented or you know of people who are, please join us, connect up to the network. Please get in touch by emailing us at email@example.com Visit our Website: ( www.statusnow4all.org )
We ask that everybody here continues to reach out to their own networks to grow the support that we need and to approach their MP’s to join the Early Day Motion ( https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/57173/leave-to-remain-status ) call for Status Now
We hope to carry on organising together and make it possible for people to connect up with one another, safely, inside the regions where they are, so please get in touch to be a part of that future with us and to make that future one that is worth living for all of us. This is the beginning of a Network that will only end when we have Status Now for ALL. Hopefully-that will come soon but, for however long it takes, we will work together to make it happen and we will never give up.
One of the fundamental public health and social Truth to remember – which many speakers have echoed today is: to be safe and well, we all need each other.
Many of my brothers and sisters who are British tell me one thing :“We not only want people like u… we need people like you.”
Thank you to people that are carrying the burden of supporting those of us who do not have any rights to work or benefit. I started with a quote and will end with one by Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Thank you.
Our next video is from Ambrose Musiyiwa performing his own poem entitled ‘Martians, Effing Martians’, which has been published in a number of anthologies. Please be aware that the video begins with the sound of sirens:
We heard from some of the supporting organisations, beginning with Diana Skelton, from ‘ATD 4th World’. You will find a link to this and the other organisations on our website.
also Munya from the organization ‘Regularise’, who has been a regular contributor to our Reference Group,
and Ian Hodson of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, who has been a strong supporter in the development of our campaign.
We have a short film, made for this event. The artist wants to remain anonymous so that the piece can be the ‘Voice of the Many’:
We welcomed Ella Parry-Davies who published the report “A Chance to Feel Safe: Precarious Filipino migrants amidst UK’s coronavirus outbreak” to comment on what we have heard so far, and to add her thoughts.
Coming to the end of the Launch, Nazek and Loraine thanked everyone for coming.
We had a short quiet time before ending the Launch with ideas about what you can do:
We thank all those who have contributed either by making a contribution live to the event, or who have sent in a video.
What can you do?
Please contact us if your organization wishes to add the name to the list of signatories to the call – details are here on our website. You will then have a link on our website, and receive invitations to join the Reference Group meetings.
Individuals are invited to sign the online petition, and to write to MPs asking them to support EDM #658.
We hope people will join us in working together to bring about the change we know is right.
Information about our campaign is to be found here – keep an eye on the ‘What You Can Do’ box to the right of the website.
You can follow us and contribute on Facebook and on Twitter – see links from the website mainpage. We have a new Youtube channel – please subscribe to our channel. Tell people about this campaign.
If you feel moved to make a donation, please note that RAPAR has so far funded the cost of this website, and for the webinar, and the other organisations involved with the Conference all have links at the right side of the webpage where you will no doubt find details of how to send a donation.