Dear Prime Minister,
In light of UK Government guidance on combatting Covid-19, over 60 organisations which provide essential services for people who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status have come together to consider how we can support the effort to minimise risks around the spread of the virus. We recognise that a concerted cross-departmental approach is needed and we are writing to you with clear recommendations that should be immediately implemented.
Many of the people we work with are unable to access healthcare or housing because of No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and benefit restrictions. This includes; people who are appeals rights exhausted, EU and EEA migrants, people with existing visas, those whose status is not regularised, domestic workers and other migrant workers, and victims of trafficking and torture.
The challenge is pressing, but one we think that can be met if the Government makes some pragmatic policy changes to enable people who are destitute to self-isolate, seek healthcare and buy basic provisions.
Emergency public health measures do not work unless they apply to everyone living in our communities and we must have assurance that any data collected should not be shared with the Home Office for the purpose of immigration enforcement. Our suggestions to mitigate the risks outlined above are listed below;
Enabling social distancing and self-isolation
Everyone should be able to access self-contained accommodation and self-isolate safely, regardless of immigration status.
>>> Hotel spaces should be block booked so that people who are rough sleeping or sofa surfing can access safe accommodation. These spaces should be open to all and should be available with light-touch engagement.
All evictions from Home Office asylum support accommodation should be stopped. This includes the evictions of people who are appeals rights exhausted and of those who have recently been granted their refugee status.
All NHS charges should be abolished and a public communication campaign launched to ensure that everyone is aware of their rights to access healthcare.
No one recovering from Covid-19 should be discharged from NHS care to rough sleep, sofa surf or to stay in accommodation in which maintaining self-isolation and good hygiene is not possible.
Providing financial support for all
NRPF conditions should be removed for all migrants, enabling everyone to access Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay where needed.
>>> These must be available by emergency cash support for people without access to bank accounts.
All applicants for section 95, section 4 or schedule 10 support should be automatically and appropriately accommodated within the Home Office asylum support system while applications are being processed. Any decision that someone is not, in fact, eligible for support should not be actioned until after the current health emergency has passed.
Any introduction of a Universal Basic Income or Universal Self-Isolation Pay should be available for everyone, including those with NRPF.
The voluntary sector stands ready to play its part in preventing the spread of Covid-19 by supporting groups in vulnerable situations, and the changes above will enable us to do this better.
Hazel Williams, National Director, NACCOM
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive, Crisis
Sabir Zazai, CEO, Scottish Refugee Council
Sarah Teather, Director, JRS
Marley Morris, Associate Director for Immigration, Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)
Holly Taylor, Executive Director of Policy and Communications, Welsh Refugee Council
Stephen Hale, CEO, Refugee Action
Siân Summers-Rees, Chief Officer, City of Sanctuary
Fizza Qureshi, CEO, Migrants’ Rights Network
Maurice Wren, CEO, Refugee Council
Sonya Sceats, CEO, Freedom from Torture
Natasha Walter and Marchu Girma, Directors, Women for Refugee Women
Alice Webb, Director, Asylum Support Appeals Project
Andrea Vukovic, Project Director, Asylum Matters
Joshua Hallam, Community Campaigns and Networks Manager, Choose Love/Help Refugees
Marta Welander, Executive Director, Refugee Rights Europe
Kerry Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Helen Bamber Foundation
Nazek Ramadan, Director, Migrant Voice
Zrinka Bralo, CEO, Migrant Organise
Bella Sankey, Director, Detention Action
Abi Brunswick, Director, Project 17
Denise McDowell, Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
Beth Wilson, Director, Bristol Refugee Rights
Sally Daghlian OBE, CEO, Praxis Community Projects
Lizzie Briggs, Director, Bristol Hospitality Network
Alison Moore, CEO, Refugee Women Connect
James Clayton, Chair of Trustees, Hope Housing Bradford
Rev. Sally Smith, Managing Director, Sanctus St Marks
Ewan Roberts, Centre Manager, Asylum Link Merseyside
Salma Ravat, Manager, One Roof Leicester
Phil Davis, Coordinator, Hope Projects Birmingham
Julian Prior, CEO, Action Foundation
Ros Holland, Chief Executive, The Boaz Trust
Neli Montes de Oca, Caseworker and Immigration Advisor, Refugee Support Devon
Lisa Norcross, Development Coordinator, Sanctuary Homes & Together Lancashire
Nicola Wood, Executive Officer, Swindon City of Sanctuary
Nick Harborne, CEO, Reading Refugee Support Group
Beth Ash, Coordinator, The Night Shelter at Coventry Peace House
Jacob Berkson, Trustee, Thousand 4 1000
Anna Yassin, Migrant Project Manager, Glass Door Homeless Charity
Jill Hay, Tenancy Support Officer, The Race Equality Centre Leicester
Mel Steel, Director, Voices in Exile
Thomas Martin, Director, City of Sanctuary Sheffield
Pete Hobson, Chair of Trustees, Leicester City of Sanctuary
Katrina Burton, Project Manager, West Yorkshire Destitute Asylum Network
David Hirst, Refugee and Migrant Practitioner, Birmingham Community Hosting Network
Roopa Tanna, Solicitor, Islington Law Centre
Anna Skehan, Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit
Ceri Hutton, Chair, MigrationWork CIC
Dr. Becky Macfarlane, Glasgow Asylum Destitution Action Network
Anna Lewis, CEO, Open Doors North East
The Unity Project Caron Boulghassoul, CEO, Nottingham Arimathea Trust
Ruth Cooke, Chair of Directors, Abigail Housing
Anthony Gard, Movement for Justice
Aleasha Chaunte , Co-Director , One September Art LLP
Washington Ali, Trustee, Communities and Asylum Seekers Together
Katy Armitstead, Team Leader, Bradford Ecumencial Asylum Concern (BEACON)
Dr Joan Miller, Iona Community and GLADAN
Dr Ruth O’Neill, Chair, Homes4U Cardiff
Shaheda Mangerah, Caseworker, Destitution Project Bolton
Elizabeth Ganeena, Support Worker
Suzanna Fletcher, Housing Stream Convenor, Tees Valley of Sanctuary
Jan Foster, Trustee, Doncaster Conversation Club
Vicki Harris, Haref Coordinator, Connected Voice Haref
Nick Watts, Director, Together with Migrant Children
Amber Bauer, CEO, Donate4Refugees
Clare Moseley, Care4Calais
Michael Bates, Central England Law Centre
Janet Fuller, Project Manager, Derby Refugee Forum
Emily Crowley, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees
Jess Thompson, Director, Migrateful
Leila Zadeh, UKLGIG
Ali McGinley, Director, AVID (Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees)
Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission, IOM UK
Robina Qureshi, Director, Positive Action in Housing
Sarah Taal, Coventry Migrant Women’s Houses and Boabab Women’s Project CIC
And numerous NACCOM supporters and volunteers.
CC: The First Minister of Scotland, the First Minister of Wales, Home Secretary, Health Secretary, Work and Pensions Secretary and the Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government