Open Letter: Access to Healthcare, Housing & Food for All- ‘Status Now’!

An Open Letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is calling on both governments to give ‘Status Now’ (leave to remain) to all undocumented migrants and those who are awaiting a decision on their immigration case. The letter states it is imperative that everyone’s basic needs are met during the current Covid-19 pandemic and we must create access to health and safety for ALL.

cc:   UK Home Secretary and UK Health Secretary,
Irish Health Secretary and Irish Minister for Justice and Equality,
All UK MPs,
All Members of the Irish Parliament (the Oireachtas),
All Leaders and CEOs of Local Authorities and Health Services in the UK,
All CEOs of Councils and Health Services in Ireland,
Professor Neil Ferguson, Imperial College, London,
Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Ireland
Prof Ruairi Brugha, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, Ireland

Dear Sirs

We call upon the British and Irish States to act immediately so that all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the legal process in both the UK and Ireland are granted Status Now, as in Leave to Remain.  In this way every human, irrespective of their nationality or citizenship can access healthcare, housing, food and the same sources of income from the State as everyone else.  
Everyone has the right to be in an environment where they can follow the Public Health directives necessary to limit COVID19 viral transmission to the absolute minimum and to care for themselves, their loved ones and their living and working communities.
It is imperative – being in everyone’s best interests – that the basic needs of all are met.
People living in extreme poverty and/or destitution and/or without immigration status in the UK or Ireland and/or without access to the NHS or the Irish Health System:
•            Are unable to socially isolate as needed
•            Cannot access health care, and income and other social support
•            Cannot contribute openly and without fear, to making the population as safe as possible, alongside everyone else.

Key Points
–            Currently, migrant people who are in the legal system cannot keep physically safe on their allowances, because those allowances don’t amount to enough money to eat healthily, or buy and apply appropriate cleaning materials, and many are living in accommodation where they cannot socially isolate as they may want and need to.
–            People who are destitute and/or undocumented and living in the shadows fear what will happen to them if they identify themselves, cannot access healthcare, emergency shelter and food, nor report or seek protection from domestic violence, rape, exploitation and other abuses – levels of which are already rising.

Please direct your responses, as a matter of urgency obviously, to [email protected]

Yours sincerely,
All African Women’s Group
ATD Fourth World
BASW Cymru – British Association of Social Workers, Cymru
BFAWU – Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Doncaster Conversation Club
DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts
EYST Wales – Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team, Wales
GDWG – Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
Haringey Welcome
Highly Skilled Migrants UK
Legal Action for Women
Lichfield City of Sanctuary
Lichfield Refugee Aid
Lichfield Quaker Meeting
Manchester City of Sanctuary
MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland
Medical Professionals in the UK Seeking Registration
Middle East Solidarity Magazine
Migrants’ Rights Network
MOJUK – Miscarriages of Justice UK
MRRC – Manchester Refugee Rights Collective
No-Deportations – Residence Papers for All
Oldham Unity
Positive Action in Housing
Poverty Truth Community
Project 17
Public Interest Law Centre
QARN – Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network
RAPAR – Refugee and Asylum seeker Participatory Action Research
Reclaim the Power
Women of Colour/Global Women’s Strike
(Preliminary Signatories)

People living in extreme poverty, destitution and without immigration status are unable to socially isolate, many cannot access health care and other support, and they are prevented from helping to make the population as safe as possible during this time of global crisis. Migrant people who are in the legal system cannot keep physically safe on their allowances because those allowances are not enough for them to eat healthily or buy appropriate cleaning materials. Many are living in accommodation where it is impossible for them to socially isolate.

People who are destitute or undocumented  fear what will happen to them if they identify themselves. They cannot access healthcare, emergency shelter and food. Or report or seek protection from domestic violence, rape, exploitation and other abuses – the levels of which are already rising.

People can sign the petition, just launched, HERE.  Please share this widely!


One of the signatories to the Open Letter, All African Women’s Group, said:
“Many of us are living in dangerous and abusive conditions, either in slum asylum hostels or as unwelcome guests in other people’s homes. We need money of our own and the right to stay. Now is the time for the government to take practical measures to prevent infection. Now is not a time for racism, segregation, enforced destitution or a hostile environment for anyone. We will only survive if everyone has status in the UK and can get food, healthcare and housing.”

Black Women’s Rape Action Project added: “We know that domestic violence has soared but what remains hidden is the violence and exploitation against women seeking asylum, or with no status, who have been left dependant on others for their survival. Women must have the right to stay and an independent income and housing so they can be safe.”

ATD Fourth World UK said: “Now, more than ever, it is imperative to ensure that the most vulnerable of us are protected. Those in immigration limbo are overlooked, unsupported and left to struggle; the COVID 19 pandemic once again shows the fragility of their existence and we call for them to receive the care and attention we all deserve, not just now, but always.

Although we are glad to see some public policy measures being taken to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on people in deep poverty, we are reminded that it is only on the ground that it is possible to measure that impact and to understand whether policies are actually reaching their intended beneficiaries. Expertise by experience is essential to getting the response right, as demonstrated by this Open Letter.”

Fizza Qureshi, CEO of Migrant Rights’ Network: “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 UK government to offer legal status to all undocumented migrants, and those awaiting a decision on their immigration claim, and on public health grounds because everyone deserves safety and protection during these difficult times.”

Lucky Khambule, co-ordinator of MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, says: “Since the start of the Covid19, MASI has always been critical of the way the Department for Justice and Equality responded in assuring the safety of those seeking asylum and living in direct provision. Currently there are over 60 direct provision centres and emergency hotels accommodating, with about 7,500 asylum seekers in the Ireland. For the past 14 months there has been an increase in the number of new applications and this has made the government accommodate people beyond centres’ capacity.

“The life style and living arrangements in direct provision is a recipe for disaster and should there be an outbreak in any of the centres, it would be very difficult for the department to cope. There is no social distancing as advised by the HSE, it is impossible for those living in direct provision as they are forced to share the same space with no privacy as all.

“Even the suggested on site isolation rooms are a joke as they put six to eight beds in one room very close to each other. We have been proactive in letting the Justice Minister and his colleagues know our concerns and made suggestions on what the immediate attention should be. On the 18th March 2020, we wrote to the Minister and amongst other things, we requested that all vulnerable people above 60 years and on long term illnesses be moved immediately from the direct provision set up and housed in a safer environment.

Dr Rhetta Moran, from RAPAR, added: “Deeds not words save lives and create futures worth living.

Please contact [email protected] for more information.

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