Covid-19 & Asylum – Update 20 March

Our weekly summary of ongoing advocacy initiatives, interesting surveys and research, government developments and useful resources. Contact us if you’d like to get this update directly into your inbox!

1. Doctors of the World guidance 

Doctors of the World have published guidance in over 20 languages on the coronavirus and how people can protect themselves and each other.

2. Joint letter on protecting migrants from COVID-19

Asylum Matters joined together with other organisations to sign a joint letter to the Home Secretary calling for specific measures to protect migrants and the general population from COVID-19. This included calls for the suspension of all NHS charging and data-sharing for the purposes of immigration enforcement and the suspension of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ conditions to ensure everyone can access support. You can read the letter and add your name here, and read coverage in the Independent here.

3. Joint Letter on protecting people who are experiencing homelessness and insecure migration status

NACCOM has also coordinated a joint letter to the Prime Minister, signed by more than 60 organisations including Asylum Matters, calling on the Government to take urgent action to support people who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status. Policy recommendations include enabling social distancing and self-isolation, including through block-booking hotel spaces and stopping evictions; ensuring access to healthcare with the abolishment of charging and clear public comms around this; providing financial support including by removing NRPF conditions and enabling everyone to access Universal Credit. The letter is available here.

4. Pause in face to face substantive asylum interviews

In an update circulated on 18 March 2020, the Home Office have confirmed that they are temporarily suspending face to face substantive asylum interviews, saying: “Many of our applicants travel a long way to have a substantive asylum interview, which can be a lengthy interaction taking several hours. On that basis, we have decided to pause face to face substantive asylum interviews for now.  That means we will be cancelling any that are scheduled from tomorrow 19th March and will not be scheduling any new face to face interviews for now.”  

5. Further Submissions to Liverpool Temporarily Suspended

It has now been confirmed that applicants wanting to make further submissions in support of a fresh claim for asylum no longer have to travel to Liverpool to hand them in. Instead, application can be sent in via post, or via e-mail. This new process will be a temporary measure due to the Coronavirus. A message will be sent to all applicants who have already booked an appointment.

6. NACCOM guidance for hosting projects

NACCOM have published guidance for hosting projects on how to best protect residents from the coronavirus. This includes guidance for shared house projects, housing projects (including guidance from Refugees at Home), night shelters (including guidance by Housing Justice).

MHCLG and Public Health England have also produced guidance for Covid-19 and hostel or day centre providers of services for people experiencing rough sleeping, which is available here.

7. Letter to Home Secretary on immigration detention

A group of 10 organisations have written to the Home Secretary raising concerns about the risk of an outbreak in an immigration detention and calls for the release of all immigration detainees. The letter notes that, “Detention can only be justified where there is a prospect of imminent removal and as borders close around the globe and strict travel restrictions are implemented, the removal system is going to become much harder to operate, making increased numbers of removals and detentions unlawful.” You can read the full letter here and coverage in the Guardian here.

Detention Action also coordinated a pre-action protocol (PAP) challenging the use of detention during the COVID-19 pandemic, which you can read about here.

The Ministry of Justice and Public Health England have issued guidance on Covid-19: prisons and other places of detention, which is available here.

8. APPG Call for Evidence: Covid-19 and Social Connection with Isolated Groups

The APPG is calling for evidence as part of its Social Integration Inquiry into “What can we learn from the COVID-19 crisis about social connection with isolated groups?” The inquiry is asking individuals and organisations working with socially isolated groups to share challenges they have faced in supporting people who face these difficulties and how they have been overcome. More detail on the inquiry is here and written evidence should be sent to: [email protected].

9. Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry on Home Office Preparedness for Covid-19

The Home Affairs Committee is undertaking a short inquiry into the Home Office’s preparations for and response to Covid-19. They are calling for evidence on a range of issues, some of which might be of relevance to migration and asylum advocates, including: how the Home Office and its major contractors are working together to ensure the safe and effective operation of contracted services is maintained, particularly where these services affect vulnerable people; and the effectiveness of Home Office communications to its partners, responders and the wider public about its preparations. The deadline is noon on 25 March and more details are available here.

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