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Female asylum seekers forced to choose between starving and catching the coronavirus

A study by Sisters not Strangers finds three quarters of the 115 women they spoke to have gone hungry since the lockdown

FEMALE asylum-seekers have gone hungry and homeless during the lockdown with some forced to choose between starving or risking exposure to Covid-19, a report has found.

A study by a coalition of women’s groups published today has laid bare the desperate situation for asylum-seekers trying to survive the lockdown. 

The Sisters not Strangers coalition found that out of the 115 women they spoke to, three quarters had gone hungry – including mothers forced to forgo food to feed their children. 

Sixteen women said that they had been forced into exploitative work in exchange for shelter and other basic needs during the pandemic.

Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group chairwoman Lorraine Mponela said that she has seen “friends risking (their lives) because you have to choose whether to die from hunger because you are a destitute person, or you have to choose to die from Covid-19.”

She said that this is why we are seeing situations like those in Leicester’s slum garment factories. 

People who are seeking asylum in Britain or have their asylum claims rejected often live in poverty and destitution because they are not entitled to claim benefits or work. They largely rely on charities and groups to provide shelter, food and support. 

But during lockdown many of these charities have closed their doors, leaving people without basic necessities. 

The report found that a fifth of the women were homeless, with many living in unsuitable temporary accommodation or on the streets. 

Lo Lo, an asylum-seeker in London, was made homeless during the crisis after she fled “filthy and overcrowded” Home Office housing where there were “rats and cockroaches everywhere.” 

“I was terrified because men kept coming into my room without permission, even while I was sleeping,” she said. “I felt so stressed and my depression got worse.”

She spent the next week sleeping on buses, travelling from one side of London to the other, until she was offered emergency housing by the local authority. 

A Home Office spokesman said: “Those who would have ordinarily had their support stopped because their claim has been rejected have continued receiving support and accommodation during this difficult time.”

The coalition wants the Home Office to go much further and grant all those with insecure immigration status leave to remain to ensure their safety and to protect public health. 

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