This blog was written by Ruth, one of Migrants Organise’s members, who was unable to join the weekend of action against the Hostile Environment and instead wrote this piece. A version of this was read out at protests across the country during the weekend of action against the hostile environment.
This is life as an asylum seeker or as an undocumented migrant in the UK.
We left our countries to seek a better life for ourselves and our families. Some of us made perilous journeys, risking our lives to seek safety and protection. Some came simply to find better opportunities, pretty much like when the white men came to our countries, but without the stealing, murdering, and violence. What we all want is a dignified life.
Instead we are not allowed to work or claim benefits. Asylum seekers get a financial support of £35 a week – which is just £5 a day to live on and which is not enough to support them. The rest of us don’t even get that sum, so end up doing exploitative jobs where we are under-paid and subject to abuse by our employers. We end up renting and living in overcrowded houses in deplorable conditions with unscrupulous landlords, constantly asking and threatening us for rent. We are not allowed to use the address of where we live in case we get reported to the Home Office and the landlord gets fined by the Home Office for renting the house to undocumented migrants.
We are scared to go to the hospital or to visit the GP if we are sick or showing any symptoms of Coronavirus. We are scared we might get reported to the Home Office and be forced to go back. One of us was a domestic worker who started coughing and showing COVID symptoms, and because she didn’t want to lose her job, whenever she wanted to cough she would start the hoover so that her employer couldn’t hear her coughs and send her home.
How can we change this? Why are we put in a position where we have to continue working instead of isolating to protect ourselves and others? How can we end the cry of “I have to do it because I haven’t got a choice”? When are we able to get a GP, visit the hospital, get proper accommodation, and get jobs which are safe, where there isn’t exploitation, and to have a dignified life?
Help us build the movement for an immigration system based on justice, dignity and welcome. Sign the FIRM Charter: firmcharter.org.uk/