Covid-19 & Asylum – Update 18th May

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

Campaigners keep up the pressure on the Home Office to raise asylum support rates

Organisations and individuals continue to write to their MPs calling for an urgent uplift to asylum support rates so people seeking asylum are able to keep themselves safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Over 5,250 people have already written to their MPs via Refugee Action’s e-action. We’re also working with organisations and individuals across the UK to raise the issue with their constituency MPs and request meetings to discuss asylum support rates.

Want to get more involved in the campaign? Get in touch with Emma Birks (emma[at]

Glasgow’s politicians raise concerns about asylum accommodation and destitution

The Leader of Glasgow City Council, the City Convenor for Equalities and Glasgow’s seven MPs have written to the Home Secretary to ask questions about asylum accommodation, the support available to people in hotels, and asking for a commitment to ensuring that no-one is left destitute in Glasgow when lockdown measures are eased. You can read the full letter here and media coverage in the Glasgow Times here.

David Linden MP (Glasgow East) also managed to get asylum accommodation on the agenda at last week’s Prime Ministers Questions. He called on the Prime Minister to “urgently trigger a full Home Office review into the support being provided to asylum seekers and ensure that they work with key partners in the council so that they are not left destitute once the lockdown is lifted?”

The Prime Minister replied stating: “The hon. Gentleman draws attention to a very important issue. We will make sure that nobody in this country, let alone asylum seekers, is ill-treated. I shall certainly be investigating the matter to which he refers, but am happy to write to him.”

This intervention follows on from the Home Affairs Select Committee session on asylum accommodation on the 7th May (full transcript now available here) and continued advocacy from Scottish Refugee Council and other partners in Scotland.

All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration: Report on Social Isolation

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration has released a new report looking at social connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend giving the report a read in full, but here’s a quick rundown of the key findings relating to people seeking asylum:

  • In general, the APPG notes that in a context where many are experiencing extreme social isolation during the pandemic, “social connection needs to be seen as integral to the overall response to COVID-19”.
  • People seeking asylum and those with no recourse to public funds are identified as being particularly vulnerable to social isolation. Other groups include ‘older’ people, people living in single-person households and those with disabilities or illnesses;
  • Digital exclusion emerged as one of the major themes of the inquiry. People seeking asylum were identified as less likely to own a computer or tablet and evidence provided by organisations for the inquiry highlighted the impact of a lack of WiFi in asylum accommodation (and accommodation used to house the homeless population more generally). With public libraries and cafes closed, people seeking asylum and homeless people lack access to alternative wifi provision. The APPG recommended that the Home Office reviews access to WiFi in asylum accommodation as soon as is reasonably possible.  
  • The report also recommends that local authorities and other support organisations translate relevant information so that those without fluent English can understand services available to them.
Home Affairs Select Committee and Work and Pensions Committee write to Home Secretary on NRPF 
Yvette Cooper MP – the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee – and Stephen Timms MP – the chair of the Work and Pensions Committee – have jointly written to the Home Secretary asking for clarity on the number of people affected by No Recourse to Public Funds conditions, including undocumented migrants living in the UK. They also request information on the number of people who have applied to have the condition lifted, and the success rate of the applicants. The letter asks for a response from the Home Secretary by Friday 15th May.
Politicians in Newham call for the suspension of NRPF conditions 
Stephen Timms MP, Lyn Brown MP and Rokhsana Fiaz (Mayor of Newham) have written to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government calling for the suspension of NRPF conditions. They report that requests for NRPF support to Newham Council have increased 300% during the pandemic period.
APPG on Detention calls for the immediate release of everyone from immigration detention

Last week, the APPG on Detention wrote to Priti Patel calling for immediate release of everyone from immigration detention. You can read the full letter on Twitter, here.

2. Home Office and Government Developments

Immigration Bill returns to the House of Commons this week
The Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill returns to the House of Commons for its second reading on Monday 18th May. For more information on the purpose of the Bill, you can check out the updated House of Commons Research Paper,  and briefings from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and the Immigration Law Practitioners Association. 

3. Resources

Getting to grips with video webinars? Need to film a message for your supporters? This helpful guide from IMIX gives you 10 top tips for filming yourself on your phone at home.Interested in applying for Clore Social Leadership’s summer school for leaders in the UK migration and refugee sector? Read more on their website here, and check out their info and Q&A webinar on Thursday 21st May (2-3pm).

4. What we’ve been reading … 

This week, we’ve been reading these powerful stories from migrant women living in Northern Ireland. We loved this testimony from Sipho Sibanda from Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) about her endless campaigning work to end destitution.

This excellent blog from the chairs of British Red Cross’ Gender Equality Network and refugee women from the VOICES network shines a light on the particular challenges faced by refugee women during lockdown.

Refugee Action’s Good Practice and Partnerships team have written this super informative piece on how 40 of their partners organisations have adapted their services to meet the needs of refugees and people seeking asylum under lockdown.

And finally, we love this write up about Everyday Activism campaigners Joan and Loraine about their experiences during lockdown, the difficulty of not being allowed to work, and their campaigning with the Lift the Ban coalition.

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