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CAMPAIGNERS have urged the government to grant leave to remain for all asylum-seekers to ensure equal access to healthcare, housing and food for all.
The groups, led by Manchester-based rights campaigners Refugee & Asylum Participatory Action Research (RAPAR), have written an open letter to ministers calling for migrants to be given legal status immediately.
The appeal, which was also sent to Irish leaders, has been signed by 37 organisations in Britain and Ireland.
The letter stresses that everybody’s basic needs must be met during the Covid-19 pandemic and suggests that the only way to do this is by allowing all refugees and migrants — inside and outside of the asylum and immigration system — leave to remain.
“Everyone has the right to be in an environment where they can follow the public-health directives necessary to limit Covid-19 viral transmission to the absolute minimum and to care for themselves, their loved ones and their living and working communities,” it says.
“It is imperative — being in everyone’s best interests — that the basic needs of all are met.”
At present, those living without immigration status and experiencing destitution cannot access healthcare, income and other social support.
Campaigners say people who are in the legal system cannot keep physically safe on their meagre allowances, and many are living in accommodation where they cannot socially isolate. Those currently unregistered face further issues, with fears of exploitation, violence or other abuses should they identify themselves.
One of the signatories, Fizza Qureshi of Migrant Rights’ Network (MRN), said: “At a time of an unprecedented public-health crisis, we need this government to react with a humane response so no migrant fears accessing healthcare, or any other service they need.
“MRN along with others urges the government to offer legal status to all undocumented migrants because everyone deserves safety and protection during these difficult times.”
Dr Rhetta Moran, from RAPAR, said: “Deeds not words save lives and create futures worth living.”
Others urging the government to take action by signing the letter include the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).
Its national president Ian Hodson said: “At this time of crisis we need to ensure the resources we have are targeted at defeating Covid-19 and those with skills utilised to help our creaking NHS and care services.
“At this time of crisis we realise how small our world is and how dependent on each other we are.
“The idea we will leave some with no access to necessary healthcare, putting others in our community at risk, makes no sense.
“The health, safety and welfare of us all is dependent on making the right choices.”
An online petition backing the calls has been launched alongside the letter.
Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU), part of United Voices of the World (UVW), have also called for all migrants to be granted immediate temporary leave to remain, echoing the sentiments in the campaigners’ open letter.
The latest pleas come after the Home Office announced at the weekend that all evictions of asylum-seekers would be put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.
Immigration Minister Chris Philp wrote to charities on Friday to confirm that people would not be asked to leave their asylum accommodation once claims or appeals had been decided, though the policy will be reviewed in June.
The British Red Cross’s Alex Fraser welcomed the announcement from the Home Office, saying that nearly 50,000 people will have been safeguarded as a result.
Update: March 31,2020
A government spokesperson told the Star: “The government is committed to supporting everyone through this crisis.
“Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, fully furnished accommodation while applications are considered and we are continuing to accommodate and support people, even if their claim has been rejected, up until the end of June.
“Coronavirus has also been added to the list of communicable diseases so anyone experiencing symptoms regardless of their immigration status will be treated for free.”
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