Advice for UK Covid-19 Mutual Aid groups on Refugees & Asylum Seekers

This is a live document and a work in progress - please email Student Action for Refugees to add to or amend the document

ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE CAN BE FOUND HERE - always check here for up-to-date information

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

This is a very difficult and worrying time for everyone but even more so for certain groups in society. There are many things about the UK asylum system and life in the UK for refugees or people seeking asylum that could mean they are more at risk during the Covid-19 outbreak.

32,693 asylum applications were made in the UK in 2018-2019, and many people are also resettled across the UK. Many more are afraid to officially report and make an asylum claim.

People seeking asylum are not allowed to work and have to live off around £5 a day.

See more in our fact sheet here.

Refugees are often living in an unfamiliar environment, and will have a limited - or no - support network. They are more likely to have pre-existing health conditions  and the impact of hostile environment policies means that many find it difficult to access healthcare. Social isolation is also a real issue. Asylum seekers are five times more likely to have mental health needs than the general population and more than 61% will experience serious mental distress (source). Watch this video from a STAR member and activist to hear his first hand perspective.

Given the already serious difficulties many asylum seekers faced prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, we have compiled the following information for Mutual Aid groups who come across people facing these problems in their communities.

Mutual Aid groups for refugees and asylum seekers

There are a number of networks and mutual aid groups that have cropped up specifically for refugees and asylum seekers:

For the London group - please consider joining or invite someone to join this group if you/they are one of the following:

  • A migrant, an asylum seeker or an individual without immigration status who needs immediate support
  • An organisation that supports migrants and asylum seekers
  • An individual who is able to support asylum seekers in their local area
  • An individual with language skills who is able to assist with translation
  • An existing regional Mutual Aid group looking to reach out to migrant groups

How can Mutual Aid groups support refugees and asylum seekers?

Work with local refugee and migrant charities and support groups

Check in with local refugee and migrant support organisations to find out the most useful way you can help. Many of these are small organisations that will be overwhelmed at the moment so you may not get an immediate reply. There is no national database of organisations working with refugees, but most organisations are just a quick Google search away.

Share translated information

If you don’t speak English, getting the correct information about Covid-19 is very difficult. Without access to information the current situation is even more frightening and people will not know how to keep themselves and others safe. You can help by sharing this translated information.

The Big Leaf Foundation has translated versions of Coronavirus guidance in:

Doctors of the World, in partnership with the Red Cross, Migrant Help and Clear Voice, has provided guidance in (please check their Google Drive too):

Housing & Hosting

Housing is under greater strain during periods of self-isolation, especially in cases where people are in homes with many occupants.

  • NACCOM (the No Accommodation Network) have compiled guidance on specific housing and hosting projects
  • Refugees at Home are able to help adult refugees and asylum seekers find short-term housing (note: they are closed for referrals in London until 6th April).

Access to Healthcare

Migrants Organise and MedAct have shared a few essential resources regarding access to healthcare. The government has slowly introduced charges to migrants for using the NHS, however it should be noted that no one will be charged for treatment for suspected or confirmed coronavirus. Furthermore:

  • Everyone has the right to register with a GP and receive free 'primary care'.
  • Treatment given in Accident and Emergency is free for everyone, as is diagnosis and treatment of infectious and sexually transmitted disease (eg TB, HIV) and family planning (contraception, but not abortions).
  • Refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to free hospital care, as are victims of trafficking & slavery, and those in need of treatment owing to torture, FGM, domestic or sexual violence.
  • Those being treated under the Mental Health Act, in detention, a child under the care of a local authority or an adult under the Care Act should not be charged for healthcare.

Play for Progress produced this guide to working with young asylum seekers & refugees living with PTSD & Anxiety during Coronavirus.

Subsistence

Most people seeking asylum have an extremely limited income so will be unable to afford to purchase large amounts of food for social distancing or self-isolation.

  • Donate to your local foodbanks, as well as sharing information about where they are and how to access them.

Internet access is rarely provided in asylum accommodation, and laptops and computers are a luxury. Phone credit is also an additional expense at this time. Dongles, phone credit, and laptops could be of particular use at this time of isolation.

  • Please consider collecting unwanted or underutilised technology

Families or young refugees and asylum seekers in particular could benefit from the same kind of activities that others may use to pass the time, such as books and games.

Collect evidence

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration is calling for evidence as part of its Social Integration Inquiry into “What can we learn from the COVID-19 crisis about social connection with isolated groups?”

  • The inquiry is asking individuals and organisations working with socially isolated groups to share challenges they have faced in supporting people who face these difficulties and how they have been overcome.
  • More detail on the inquiry is here and written evidence should be sent to: info@britishfuture.org.

Take Action

The Joint Council on the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Liberty & Medact have convened a letter calling on the Home Secretary to ensure the safety of migrants.

Protection, including reporting Hate Crime

As it is likely that we will see a spike in online abuse and racism, remember to call out racism online and offline - report any discriminatory or racist posts you see to the platform’s hosts and counter it by sharing positive stories of people seeking refuge.

--

ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE CAN BE FOUND HERE produced by Migrants Organise, JCWI, Docs Not Cops & Medact

www.star-network.org.uk