Prime Minister must act to protect those experiencing homelessness with insecure migration status during pandemic – read our joint letter

NACCOM, along with over 60 other organisations, has jointly written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urge the Government to put in place measures to protect those experiencing homelessness and destitution because of their insecure migration status during the pandemic.

The letter calls for urgent measures to be implemented to ensure homeless migrants with insecure migration status can access housing and healthcare during the pandemic, and sets out policy recommendations to protect them and others during this unprecedented global crisis.

Read the full letter below:

The Rt. Honourable Boris Johnson
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

Date: 19th March 2020

Dear Prime Minister,

RE: Coronavirus – policy recommendations to protect people who are experiencing
homelessness and insecure migration statuses.

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.

Accessing healthcare

  • 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.

Yours Sincerely,

Hazel Williams, 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
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
NACCOM is a registered charity in England and Wales Registration No.1162434
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
The Leadership Team, Assist Sheffield
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)
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

You can also read our follow-up letter in response to a statement made by the Prime Minister on March 25th at PMQs on the issue of support for those experiencing homelessness and destitution with insecure migration status during the pandemic:

Read follow-up letter

The Rt. Honourable Boris Johnson
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister,
Date: 26th March 2020
RE:PMQ commitment for Home Office funding for those who are seeking asylum, have had their asylum claims refused or who are prohibited from accessing public funds
Following our letter dated 19th March with recommendations signed by over 80 organisations supporting people who are homeless and destitute because of their migration status, we write again to welcome your commitment at PMQs yesterday (25thMarch 2020) stating that; People seeking asylum, those whose asylum claims have been refused and all who have been prohibited from having access to public funds by Home Office rules “will certainly receive the Home Office funding that they need and deserve”.
It is now imperative that those who are homeless and destitute stemming from insecure immigration status, including those with No Recourse to Public Funds, as well as those seeking to access or who have been refused asylum, are able to urgently access publicly funded accommodation and support. This will not only help vulnerable homeless and destitute individuals to be safe and hence be able to comply with your instructions on safe social distancing and self-isolation, but it will also significantly lessen the risk of their exposure to the virus and therefore its onward transmission.
Many people who are homeless and destitute in the UK have underlying health conditions, such as respiratory issues, which make them particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. Contracting the virus will result in severe illnesses needing intensive care treatment, and for some it will result in death. Therefore, your commitment to act must now be implemented without delay. Acting now will help prevent further pressure on the NHS, and it will also save lives.
NACCOM and our partners appreciate the tone and substance of your statement at PMQs. We stand ready to work together with your Government, the devolved Governments and Local Authority partners, to ensure that all those homeless and destitute with insecure immigration status can be accommodated in the following days and weeks. In making sure our shared public health fight against Covid-19encompasses all vulnerable groups, irrespective of immigration status, we can give ourselves the best chance to suppress and ultimately overcome this unprecedented global pandemic, here in the UK.
We look forward to hearing from you. Most of all, however, we want to work with you to urgently deliver on this commitment.
Yours sincerely,
Hazel Williams, Director, NACCOM
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive, Crisis
Sabir Zazai, CEO, Scottish Refugee Council
Sarah Teather, Director, JRS
Holly Taylor, Executive Director of Policy and Communications, Welsh Refugee Council
Polly Neate, Chief Executive, Shelter
Natasha Walter & Marchu Girma, Directors, Women for Refugee Women
Stephen Hale, CEO, Refugee Action
Fizza Qureshi, CEO, Migrants’ Rights Network
Maurice Wren, CEO, Refugee Council
Sonya Sceats, CEO, Freedom from Torture
Alice Webb, Director, Asylum Support Appeals Project
Leila Zadeh, Executive Director, UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group
Andrea Vukovic, Project Director, Asylum Matters
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
Ali McGinley, Director, AVID (Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees)
Denise McDowell, Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
Sara Nathan OBE, Trustee, Refugees At Home
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
The Leadership Team, Assist Sheffield
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

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