migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Help migrants protect themselves

Editorial: Help migrants protect themselves

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Help migrants protect themselves

As Covid-19 continues to spread, urgent policy changes are required to make sure that everyone in the UK – including every migrant – is able to protect themselves and others.

The Home Office is already making changes – suspending face-to-face asylum interviews and reporting requirements, and making treatment for Covid-19 non-chargeable, for example – but these must go much further and much faster.

The Emergency Powers Bill currently going through Parliament will give the Government significant new powers in light of the pandemic, including allowing for police and immigration officers to temporarily detain people who may be infectious.

Such aggressive measures may be necessary, but these should only be introduced following scrutiny and debate, and once some simple, more humane measures have been implemented. 

We want to see immediate measures that would mean no one is too scared to seek healthcare, no one is left undocumented or unable to access emergency funds during this crisis period, no one is detained, and no one has to travel to a tribunal or a legal advice centre.

Simply put, the Government must make it possible for all migrants to follow guidance on social distancing and self-isolation. No migrant must be forced to choose between protecting themselves and maintaining their immigration status.

 

We urge the Government to immediately:

1. Suspend all NHS charging and launch a widespread public information campaign to ensure everyone understands their rights to access healthcare.

2. Remove all No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) conditions, enabling everyone to access Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay.

3. Release everyone in immigration detention and halt any further detentions.

4. Extend migrants’ leave to remain for at least six months where this is due to expire. (Many won’t have access to the funds, legal advice, or documentation necessary to submit a renewal application.)

5. Suspend all requirements to upload documents or provide evidence in person and move to a wholly online system.

6. Stop issuing refusals that would leave individuals without status.

7. Grant asylum seekers a monthly advance in their asylum support (continuing to pay more up front if the situation develops) and halt all evictions from asylum accommodation. 

8. Begin conducting all immigration tribunal hearings by video link and postpone proceedings where this would not allow for a fair hearing (e.g. due to poor internet connection).

 

This Government has pledged to do everything necessary to combat this virus and to protect the vulnerable in our society. Making these changes would be a vital step towards that goal.

 

TOP IMAGE: Westminster, Chris Bird, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)