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Government must stop condemning migrants to life in the shadows, new campaign demands

THE government must bring undocumented migrants into society by granting them status instead of condemning them to life in the shadows, a new campaign will demand today.

Hundreds of thousands of destitute and undocumented migrants are blocked from work and housing and often avoid seeking medical care for fear of data being shared with the Home Office. 

These problems have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, as the informal work, charities and grassroots groups they had previously relied on have disappeared. 

Michael, an undocumented migrant from Zimbabwe who does not want his real name printed, told the Morning Star he had lost his job during the lockdown and now lives “in a state of heightened fear and anxiety,” partly because of barriers to health care. 

“Its been a worry for the entire time I’ve been undocumented but now it’s heightened even more. I wouldn’t feel confident to go to a GP or to a hospital if I needed urgent care.

“We’ve heard some people have died because they are too scared to go.”

The #statusnow4all campaign, launched by more than 60 rights charities and trade unions under the banner of the Status Now Network, is demanding an amnesty.

It comes after a letter to the PM, sent by the newly formed coalition, was ignored. 

Migrant Voice is among the organisations calling for an amnesty.

This would allow all migrants not only to access healthcare, housing and basic support, “but also to take part in testing, tracing and vaccination programmes,” the charity’s director, Nazek Ramadan, said. 

“This is a humanitarian crisis and everyone — regardless of whether they have documents or not — must be treated as a human being in need. Everyone deserves the right to live a dignified life.”

Remaining in Britain or being granted status has become increasingly difficult since former home secretary Theresa May introduced a raft of hostile environment policies from 2012.

They expanded immigration enforcement into hospitals, schools and housing, meaning that migrants must prove their right to be in the country to rent private properties and access most health services. 

Michael was stripped of his status after living in Britain for over a decade and having studied an undergraduate and postgraduate degree. He’s now lived in the country for half of his life, but is not allowed to work or rent private accommodation. He became homeless and lived in squats for a number of years.  

Describing the impact of losing his status, Michael said: “It caused a lot of anxiety, a lot of instability in my life. I think for the first year I literally couldn't buy any food because I didn't have money. Anything I wanted to do, that I dreamed of doing with my life, was impacted.”

The launch of the campaign takes place today with a webinar by Status Now Network at 4pm: eventbrite.co.uk/e/statusnow4all-launch-event-tickets-111845557072.

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