Status Now 4 All! Renewing our Call!
In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020, a group of organisations working in solidarity with migrant and refugee people issued a call for ‘Status Now 4 All!’ in order to address the needs of hundreds of thousands of people who were in positions of exceptional risk as a consequence of having a precarious right of residence in the UK.
A lot about the predicament of migrants in British society that emerged during these months conflicted with dominant prejudices that existed over their position as workers and fellow members of local communities. It became widely understood that migrants earned their livings as key workers across many sectors of services and industries, and were obliged to continue working in high-risk occupations. As health and care workers, working in public transportation, and employed in other vital roles for fulfilling supply chains in the distribution of food and other essential goods, migrants, therefore, formed a large proportion of the newly-named group: ‘essential workers’.
Poverty and hardship
British society also learnt that because of conditions attached to migrants’ residence status, their rights to the social security, furlough benefits and safe accommodation introduced during the pandemic either fell significantly below the levels of protection provided to other groups who were citizens or did not exist at all because of migrants’ lack of status. Poverty and hardship extended across these communities, as well as the greater risk of serious illness and death because of frontline exposure to the virus – precarious immigration status was then, a factor in creating heightened risk.
Campaigning work for the rights of migrants during this period did result in some amelioration of risk. People were included in the measures taken to eliminate homelessness during the periods of lockdown. Food programmes, mainly delivered by combinations of voluntary sector organisations and local authorities, were extended to all in need irrespective of immigration status. The drivers and supporters of Status Now 4 All are proud to have been able to participate in temporarily securing these improved protections.
Now though, there are increasing attacks against all migrants, and a ramping of divisive and hostile rhetoric. Legislation aimed at ending the right to asylum in the UK has been brought into law and the Home Office is attempting to implement an immoral plan to forcibly transport people in need of safe haven to third countries such as Rwanda.
Social and workplace rights
In addition, the social and workplace rights of migrant people are under renewed attack within the latest version of the hostile environment policies. Recent reports on the rapid growth of migrant labour exploitation that have emerged from the structure of points-based ‘managed migration’ schemes reveal shocking facts about abusive and criminal practices by both agencies and employers. For example, the plans to extend the period of conditional leave to remain from the current five to eight years will mean a much longer period of exclusion from social security benefits under ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rules. Meanwhile, from October 4th, already extortionate fees and health service charges paid to the Home Office increase dramatically.
Huge increases in injustice and hardship at the hands of the State are taking place in Britain and, at the same time, we know that Britain will continue to depend on migrant people – these ‘essential workers’ – to keep its economy and public services functioning. The Illegal Migration Bill, the Rwanda Plan, and the call to ‘stop small boats’ fit into this by ensuring that migrant people will be kept under surveillance, harassed by onerous conditions limiting their rights of residence, and threatened with swift expulsion for even the most minor of reactions against these gross human rights violations. The hostile environment now is such that every time that those of us who are without status push back against these exploitative and oppressive conditions so that we can secure social and economic justice, we take considerable risks for the safety of ourselves and our families.
Restating our call
In the face of these conditions and the heightened threats to the rights of migrant and refugee people, we restate our call for Status Now 4 All! Our demand is a call for the regularisation of the residence status of all people whose lives are materially affected by restrictions and conditions upon their status which deprive them of security and increase the risk of exploitation and injustice:
We call on the original supporters of our campaign to renew their commitment to the call for Status Now 4 All. We invite the many community associations, trade union branches, anti-racist and migrant and refugee solidarity groups who have not already, to join us by becoming signatories to this call for Status Now 4 All!
Over the coming months the Status Now Network will be developing a programme of activity (across the UK) which will aim to generate greater support for our demand. Alongside activity beyond parliament, in communities and within trades unions, as the political parties formulate their programmes for a general election expected in the second half of 2024, we will work together to ensure that the demand for justice for migrant and refugee people is amplified and understood as the committed standpoint of the majority of people.
The Status 4 All Now is a group of organisations, set up in 2020, from across the United Kingdom and Ireland working together to call on the British and Irish states to ensure that all migrants in precarious positions are granted “Status Now”. Despite differing regulations, the aim and purpose remains consistent and the same in both.
Please consider this appeal for support for Status Now 4 All in your association. Contact us, by emailing StatusNow: email@example.com to say you want to sign up to our call and find out more. Thank you