30 April 2020, The Tablet

Seeking sanctuary – and how asylum seekers can be a force for good

Coronavirus pandemic


As the government struggles to cope with the pandemic, trained doctors and nurses are banned from working because they are seeking asylum. The director of Jesuit Refugee Service UK argues for a temporary grant of Leave to Remain for all those with precarious immigration status

It’s becoming clear that many people who are sick are too afraid to go to hospital, and are dying alone, when they could have lived.

Many of those who are dying were afraid of coronavirus, but that is not the only fear that is keeping some people from hospital treatment they desperately need. Those with precarious immigration status who become ill are terrified of going to hospital for fear they will be presented with a huge bill, or be shopped to the Home Office – or both.

Immigration status continues to push people to the margins and deny them support. Every day, we work with people still sleeping rough during the pandemic. Some are newly street homeless, having been turfed out of couch-surfing situations that proved too strenuous during lockdown. This is happening right across the UK. People whose immigration status is unclear or under review sleep rough because they are afraid to seek help, in case it might lead to their removal, or because the systems that have been put in place to support them simply cannot function well enough under the strain.

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