Covid-19 & Asylum – Update 17th April

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. Ongoing advocacy initiatives

Call on the Home Secretary for full support for all destitute asylum seekers

On Monday, in an article in The National, Scottish Refugee Council called for an immediate and automatic entitlement to full support for destitute asylum seekers. They state that Priti Patel’s policies mean some refused asylum seekers are being left homeless and unable to follow UK Government guidance to stay at home, or self-isolate if they have symptoms or additional vulnerabilities.

JCWI letter to Home Secretary calling to protect families at risk due to Covid 19

This letter highlights concerns about families unable to meet the income requirement for family visa extensions due to COVID-19 and calls on the Home Secretary to protect these families. The letter, signed by 23 organisations is available online here with information on how you can write to your MP. JCWI ask if people can share this on social media. A suggested Tweet is below. Alternatively, you could share JCWI’s tweet on the letter, which is here.

Thousands of people on spouse visas are living in fear. If their income drops due to #covid19, their family could be split up. These families need urgent change. Read our joint letter to the Home Secretary and take action.

Add your name to the JCWI letter calling on the Home Office to protect migrants from Covid 19

JCWI are calling on people to add their name to their open letter to the Home Secretary. It calls for the following: a suspension on NHS charging and data sharing, to suspend NRPF conditions, make assurances that those who can not make vital appointments such as interviews are not penalised, to extend or modify visas to prevent ‘overstaying’, release everyone who is detained and provide specialist support to those in asylum accommodation.

Campaign to allow doctors trained overseas to work in the NHS

The campaign has been launched by IMIX, RefuAid and Help Refugees, who are calling on the General Medical Council to issue temporary work visas for doctors who were in the process of medical registration before COVID-19 hit – many of whom are refugees. They are organising the following:

  1. A mass sign on letter from existing NHS doctors to the General Medical Council. Please share it with doctors in your networks and ask them to share it with their networks. The letter can be found here.
  2. A petition to demonstrate to the General Medical Council the level of public support for this measure. They ask people to share this on social media using the hashtag #QualifiedtoHelp Suggested posts below. Graphics to use in support can be found here.

Facebook: Hundreds of overseas qualified doctors now living in the UK are being prevented from joining the NHS coronavirus response by long and expensive bureaucratic processes. They’re qualified to help, now lets get these doctors registered to practice. Sign now:

Twitter: Overseas qualified doctors now living in the UK are prevented from joining the NHS coronavirus response by long and expensive bureaucratic processes. They’re qualified to help, now lets get these doctors registered to practice

Campaign to suspend NRPF conditions for families

The Children’s Society is asking supporters to email their MP about the need to suspend the NRPF condition so that all children and families can access vital benefits and crisis support, especially during the CV19 crisis, encouraging their MPs to raise this issue directly with the Home Secretary. More information can be found on their blog.

Letter from Sadiq Khan to the PM re: NRPF and Universal Credit

The London Mayor Sadiq Khan has written to the PM asking him to suspend NRPF conditions and to remove the 5-week wait to access Universal Credit. The letter is here.

2. Extension of free school meal provision to families with NRPF and those on Section 4 support

Following a pre-action letter sent by Matthew Gold & Co. Ltd. Solicitors on behalf of four children whose families have NRPF, the Secretary of State has agreed by pre-action response to extend free school meal entitlement temporarily during the current crisis to children from the following groups provided their families meet the usual income threshold for free school meals:

(1)  Children whose parents are Zambrano Carers; (2) Children in families with LtR subject to NRPF restriction; (3) Children whose families receive support pursuant to section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who have no recourse to public funds; and (4) Children in failed asylum seeker families receiving section 4 support.

Therefore, children from the above groups will now be eligible for the support under the Covid 19: school meals policy whereas originally they were excluded. The Government’s legal response is attached, the relevant paragraph in 6.2. The Covid 19 scheme enables eligible children to have school meals delivered and collected from school or access to £15 weekly vouchers per eligible child. General free school meal guidance is outlined here.

3. Clear confirmation from the UK Government that reporting has been suspended

Migrants Organise and the Helen Bamber Foundation received a response to their letter to the Home Secretary regarding the suspension of reporting conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The GOV.UK website has now been updated to provide clear confirmation that reporting conditions are temporarily paused: They have also provided email addresses for all the reporting centres which can be contacted if there are any issues.

The Home Office however has also stated on the updated website that some individuals may be asked to attend an “appointment”, apparently to provide details of their circumstances. We are still not very clear on how this would be implemented and what the impact would be. However, the penalty for missing an appointment can be severe, including termination of asylum support and criminal conviction.

4. Changes to asylum support processes

To keep up to date with regular changes to the asylum system due to COVID-19, keep an eye on Refugee Council and Right to Remain webpages.

5. New guidance for claiming Child benefit during Covid 19

The Government has issued new guidance this week. People should make the claim by post or telephone even if you have been unable to register the birth due to reduced registrar services, please see full information here .

6. Resources

NACCOM are constantly updating the coronavirus section to their resources page. It is a wealth of information including Coronavirus advice in different languages in audio file form and a guide to prepayment cards for destitution payments.

A number of strategic communications guides and resources have been compiled in this useful document of comms resources which can help agencies to frame the discussion around Covid 19 and social issues. Some highlights from the list that are worth reading include 8 Tips for framing Covid-19 by Ella Saltmarshe and 12 rules for communicating during Covid 19 by Kirsty McNeil at Save the Children.

Mutual Aid is a network of volunteer groups providing community support, particularly to those who are self-isolating. Find your local group here:

Right to Remain have launched their asylum navigation board. This online tool helps people understand the UK asylum process, raises awareness of common problems people face as they navigate the process, and shares survival strategies.

Duolingo is a free language-learning app for your phone. Earn points for correct answers, race against the clock, and level up. Bite-sized lessons are fun and effective.

The Recovery and Wellbeing Academy have created a page of online videos and workshops to help manage emotional and mental health during COVID 19.

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