This blog was written by Ruth, a member of Migrants Organise, following an organising training session with a number of other Migrants Organise members.
UK is in a third lockdown. But how is it for undocumented migrants?
Life continues as normal. Everyone is told to stay at home to control the virus and to save the NHS. If you are an Asylum Seeker or an Undocumented migrant you can’t afford to stay at home as you have to survive because you are not entitled to Universal Credit or to be furloughed from your job. If you are displaying symptoms of Covid, you cannot isolate as you have to work to provide for basic essential needs.
We are scared to go to the GP or the hospital because you might be asked to provide ID and to prove your immigration status which can be embarrassing, as you can be turned away from receiving medical help.
I spoke to a friend who is undocumented yesterday, and this is what she told me:
My cleaning jobs have stopped because of Covid. How am I going to survive? I am just living on rice and noodles. My rice is almost finished what am I going to eat for the rest of this lockdown? When is lockdown going to end? Or will it ever end. Can anyone help to pay my rent? I am now seriously in rent arrears and I had rent arrears from the last lockdown in March. I will soon lose my house and become homeless. I just returned from the hospital. I got a prescription for my medication but I haven’t got money to pay for it. I am worried, stressed, depressed and suicidal, facing homeless. I’ve got medical issues and just returned from the hospital. I haven’t got money to buy food so can’t eat properly so I can get better.
The Government said that every adult in the UK will be vaccinated against Covid by Autumn. Does this include Asylum Seekers and Undocumented migrants? Will we be willing to come forward for the vaccine without the fear of being turned away or being reported to the Home Office? Has anyone even bothered to check how many Asylum Seekers and Undocumented migrants have died from Covid or are seriously ill at home and are too scared to seek medical assistance?
Some migrants haven’t got access to a radio or television. If they do, we are too busy trying to find ways to survive to know about the rules surrounding Covid. How can we change this and make sure that everyone – regardless of their status – can access medical care from the NHS without fear of being reported to the Home Office in this medical emergency?
Everyone should be paying attention, because if Undocumented migrants and Asylum seekers are not vaccinated against Covid then it threatens public health andinstead of getting the virus under control, it will continue to escalate and we will always continue to be in a lockdown.
Recently, the Government said they are thinking about automatically giving £500 to every adult who tests positive for Covid, in order to support them while they are isolating so they don’t have to go to work and to infect others with the virus. It says every adult – so that should include Asylum seekers and Undocumented migrants who are already being impacted by the Hostile Environment and the impacts of Covid on their mental health.
Last week, I participated in a training session with some Asylum seekers and Undocumented migrants who were sharing their experiences about not being able to access medical care, the conditions of living in Home Office accommodation and the food that is offered to them. The food that they are being given in Home Office accommodations is so poor and they don’t have access to bank accounts to be able to get a bank card, and so they can’t buy food because the shops are not taking cash because of Covid safety.
There were people who had surgeries on the NHS and were being charged and ended up being in debts because of their status. Now they are too scared to seek medical help because they are worried about accumulating more debts. I haven’t had that experience as I avoided going to get medical help when I got into this situation because I was too embarrassed in case I got turned away. Lots of people were saying the same thing – that they were scared of fear and embarrassment.
Undocumented migrants do menial jobs just to survive and get by, like cleaning and being domestic workers working in private homes. I think when lockdown is lifted the employers are going to start asking that the workers be vaccinated against Covid before working in the houses. That is going to instill more fear into the workers who are going to end up being destitute, homeless and with mental health issues.
The Government definitely needs to start thinking about the impact on Asylum seekers and Undocumented migrants who are working in very low paid jobs and are not being able to work because of lockdown, not being able to access free medical care, the vaccine and the £500 for isolating if tested positive for Covid.
Only when the Government includes Undocumented Migrants and Asylum Seekers in its plans – and gives us our basic rights and our dignity – will we be able to come out of lockdown.