Fear of deportation prevents migrants & survivors from accessing support

Fear of deportation prevents migrants & survivors from accessing support

  • Published on
    November 13, 2021
  • Written by:
    Monica Burns
  • Category:
Hero Banner

The hostile environment created by the United Kingdom’s immigration policies has left undocumented migrants, including trafficking survivors, extremely vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. A new study by the charity Kanlungan Filipino Consortium explores how 14 Filipino migrants’ irregular status affected their ability to navigate the pandemic.  

Fear, unemployment and poverty 

The Guardian reports: 

Undocumented migrants reveal they have been forced to avoid the Covid vaccine, dodge medical help when ill, give up jobs and take up more cramped accommodation during the pandemic, in a study that suggests the virus exacerbated the “deadly effects” of the government’s “hostile environment” immigration policies. 

Almost half of the group said explicitly that they were afraid of trying to obtain the vaccine because of their immigration status, or were hesitant because they did not have enough information about it. Several said that they had to buy their own PPE to ensure they could keep working. One was eating just one proper meal per day to save money after losing work, while another volunteered for a charity in exchange for hot meals. 

How the U.K.’s immigration policies undermine their COVID-19 response 

The hostile environment refers to the situation created by policies that make it difficult and undesirable for undocumented migrants to stay in the U.K. Such measures limit access to services and opportunities, such as opening a bank account, getting a job, renting property, receiving welfare support, and using public services. In the context of a global pandemic, the “hostile environment” policies have heightened the vulnerability of undocumented migrants, including trafficking survivors.  

Free COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations are technically available for everyone in the U.K. regardless of their immigration status. Nevertheless, the underlying threat of detention and deportation often makes undocumented migrants too afraid to try to access these services and poses an additional barrier for trafficking survivors. “I’m afraid to go to the vaccine because they’re going to get my details,” said one person. “It could be a trap.”  

Moreover, treatment for “secondary or subsequent illnesses” is not universally available. Undocumented migrants are not usually eligible for free care for complications associated with the virus, for example.  

Call for universal protection from COVID-19 

At Freedom United, we are concerned about the barriers to testing, healthcare and vaccination faced by survivors of trafficking, people seeking asylum and undocumented migrants, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

We are calling on governments around the world to adopt measures to ensure these marginalized groups can access relevant services without fear of detention or deportation. Join us in demanding governments protect everyone from COVID-19 regardless of their status. Sign the petition today. 

Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This week

Migrant workers jailed in Qatar over demands for owed wages

Five months on from the World Cup final, migrant workers continue to report exploitative labor practices and mistreatment at the hands of Qatari authorities. Three former security guards have been jailed in Qatar for four months following their repeated requests for unpaid wages from their employer, Stark Security Services. Though lauded by FIFA as an opportunity to improve Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, workers who toiled to make the world’s

| Friday May 26, 2023

Read more