Our recommendations for a safe and accessible asylum system during and beyond Covid-19.

Three weeks ago today, the UK went into lockdown. Covid-19, a pervasive and deadly virus pandemic was devastating people, families and communities across the country, and the world. It still is. It does not respect power or privilege either, as the Prime Minister admitted at the weekend.

However, the most vulnerable amongst us before this virus struck are the most vulnerable today. Millions of lives across the UK were already blighted with health and socio-economic inequality. The elderly, the homeless, the exploited, those living hand to mouth – these groups need our help now.

One such group are men, women and children that have fled persecution in their home countries. People seeking safety here are forced to endure the Home Office’s hostile environment, and denied adequate accommodation or money. They are not allowed to work. If the Home Office deemed them to have breached conditions then eviction, street homelessness, indefinite detention or removals awaited. Even before Covid-19, the situation was bleak.

So what have the Home Office done since the Prime Minister’s lockdown three weeks today? Quite disgracefully and simply inexcusably, they have done next to nothing. Aside from pausing asylum evictions – and some face-to-face meetings and tribunals – nothing fundamentally has actually changed.

The week one of our team spoke to a single parent with a newborn child who has been without financial support since the Covid crisis began. We thankfully managed to resolve this issue, and local mutual aid groups have helped ensure that some of our vulnerable clients can access supplies, but vulnerable people with significant mental and physical health concerns are falling through the cracks in a system which was already unfit for purpose. People cannot rely on charity and goodwill alone, they need protection and support.

With our colleagues across the UK, we have been pushing the Home Office to make its asylum support system – flawed as it is – fully open and accessible. Men and women rendered homeless and destitute by the Home Office desperately need this support, now more than ever.

So, we repeat to the Home Secretary to urgently implement the following clear and coherent policy to make the asylum system a safe haven for as long as this pandemic lasts and, ideally, the basis of a proper support system thereafter.

In doing so, the Home Secretary would enable vulnerable people to have a home and the means to stay in it, protecting them, their community, and the NHS. If not, then the Home Office is breaking the Prime Minister’s lockdown instructions, and leaving people, communities and the NHS to the mercy of the virus. Nobody can be left behind in this fight.

A safe and accessible asylum system against this virus requires for all those who need it:

  • Automatic entry to destitute new arrivals and those seeking support after being refused asylum;
  • Reinstate full support for all those that are classed as “over-stayers” in asylum accommodation;
  • Increase financial support to mainstream benefit levels, adding the UC standard allowance increase;
  • Suspend asylum support Breach of Conditions policy during this Covid-19 pandemic; and
  • Order, publish and urgently implement a public health assessment of asylum accommodation.
  • All immigration detainees must be immediately released, with the option of suitable asylum accommodation, so they have continued access to their current legal rep., and wider supports;
  • All those recognised as refugees must automatically remain on full asylum support until they have been successfully moved onto full social security provision.

We urge the Home Secretary to adopt this policy today.

In doing so, the UK Government will save lives – it is as simple as that.


Visit our Covid-19 resources page for more information.

Chris Afuakwah
Author: Chris Afuakwah