Open Letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is calling on both governments to create access to health and safety for all. People can sign the petition, just launched, HERE.
The Open Letter, which has been signed by 65 organisations in the UK and Ireland (see ‘Organisation Signatories’ list for updates), says it is imperative that everyone’s basic needs are met during the current Covid-19 pandemic and the only way to ensure this happens is by giving Leave to Remain to all refugees and migrants both inside and outside of the asylum and immigration system.
People living in extreme poverty, destitution and without immigration status are unable to socially isolate, many cannot access health care and other support, and they are prevented from helping to make the population as safe as possible during this time of global crisis. Migrant people who are in the legal system cannot keep physically safe on their allowances because those allowances are not enough for them to eat healthily or buy appropriate cleaning materials. Many are living in accommodation where it is impossible for them to socially isolate.
People who are destitute or undocumented fear what will happen to them if they identify themselves. They cannot access healthcare, emergency shelter and food. Or report or seek protection from domestic violence, rape, exploitation and other abuses – the levels of which are already rising.
One of the signatories to the Open Letter, All African Women’s Group, said:
“Many of us are living in dangerous and abusive conditions, either in slum asylum hostels or as unwelcome guests in other people’s homes. We need money of our own and the right to stay. Now is the time for the government to take practical measures to prevent infection. Now is not a time for racism, segregation, enforced destitution or a hostile environment for anyone. We will only survive if everyone has status in the UK and can get food, healthcare and housing.”
Black Women’s Rape Action Project added: “We know that domestic violence has soared but what remains hidden is the violence and exploitation against women seeking asylum, or with no status, who have been left dependant on others for their survival. Women must have the right to stay and an independent income and housing so they can be safe.”
ATD Fourth World UK said: “Now, more than ever, it is imperative to ensure that the most vulnerable of us are protected. Those in immigration limbo are overlooked, unsupported and left to struggle; the COVID 19 pandemic once again shows the fragility of their existence and we call for them to receive the care and attention we all deserve, not just now, but always.
“Although we are glad to see some public policy measures being taken to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on people in deep poverty, we are reminded that it is only on the ground that it is possible to measure that impact and to understand whether policies are actually reaching their intended beneficiaries. Expertise by experience is essential to getting the response right, as demonstrated by this Open Letter.”
Fizza Qureshi, CEO of Migrant Rights’ Network: “At a time of an unprecedented public health crisis, we need this government to react with a humane response so no migrant fears accessing healthcare, or any other service they need. MRN along with others urges the UK government to offer legal status to all undocumented migrants, and those awaiting a decision on their immigration claim, and on public health grounds because everyone deserves safety and protection during these difficult times.”
Lucky Khambule, co-ordinator of MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, says: “Since the start of the Covid19, MASI has always been critical of the way the Department for Justice and Equality responded in assuring the safety of those seeking asylum and living in direct provision. Currently there are over 60 direct provision centres and emergency hotels accommodating, with about 7,500 asylum seekers in the Ireland. For the past 14 months there has been an increase in the number of new applications and this has made the government accommodate people beyond centres’ capacity.
“The life style and living arrangements in direct provision is a recipe for disaster and should there be an outbreak in any of the centres, it would be very difficult for the department to cope. There is no social distancing as advised by the HSE, it is impossible for those living in direct provision as they are forced to share the same space with no privacy as all.
“Even the suggested on site isolation rooms are a joke as they put six to eight beds in one room very close to each other. We have been proactive in letting the Justice Minister and his colleagues know our concerns and made suggestions on what the immediate attention should be. On the 18th March 2020, we wrote to the Minister and amongst other things, we requested that all vulnerable people above 60 years and on long term illnesses be moved immediately from the direct provision set up and housed in a safer environment.”
Dr Rhetta Moran, from RAPAR, added: “Deeds not words save lives and create futures worth living.”
Please contact admin(at)rapar.org.uk for more information.