Asylum seekers fear deportation if they accept virus crisis help, say campaigners


The independent London newspaper

21 April, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Cristel Amiss from Global Women Against Deportations is among those calling for immigration status for asylum seekers

ACTIVISTS based at Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town are calling on the government to do more to protect asylum seekers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Campaigners say that although the government announced Section 4 support for asylum seekers, offering accommodation and financial support, many will be fearful of being at risk of deportation if they come forward.

Cristel Amiss, from Global Women Against Deportations, said: “It is a very genuine worry that is backed up by tough practice that if they go to the state for help they can be a target down the line.

“The virus is very quick at spreading and asylum seekers are in particularly difficult situations, usually in hostels with people from many different countries and backgrounds living close together.

“Those that are on asylum support get just £37 a week and are often living in overcrowded asylum housing, sharing bathrooms and a kitchen which make it almost impossible to keep yourself safe and follow isolating rules.

“Surviving a pandemic like this needs more access and more resources because we have double the jeopardy than before. There is no time for half measures in dealing with this.”

Global Women Against Deportations is a coalition based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre made up of the All African Women’s Group, Legal Action for Women, Women Against Rape and Global Women’s Strike.

Their demands include a call for immigration status to people for at least two years or until the health crisis is over, emergency financial support, food and housing regardless of immigration status and to release everyone in immigration detention to reduce the risk of Covid-19.

The New Journal reported in 2018 how asylum-seeking nurses and care workers said they were being threatened with deportation instead of being allowed to work on short-staffed NHS wards.

Ms Amiss said: “It has been made clear the key workers and those keeping society going are the same migrants who have been vilified. We know who is really responsible for keeping life going and it is not the billionaires, it is not the bankers, it is those who are doing vital work in care homes, it’s the delivery drivers, it’s the bus drivers.

“We have to finish up with this division.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are taking a compassionate and pragmatic approach to an unprecedented situation, including extending visas for all foreign nationals who are lawfully in the UK and temporarily expanding the in-country switching provisions.

“As part of Government measures to fight coronavirus, asylum seekers who would normally no longer be eligible for accommodation because their claim has been resolved will continue to receive support until the end of June. This will be kept under review.

“The public expects that we maintain law and order, which is why removals of foreign national offenders and those who have no right to be in the UK are still taking place where routes are available.”

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