Today we’re publishing our 2021 Report: Covid-19 and the Hostile Environment in the North West of England. In the 12 months from March 2020, Covid-19 collided with the Government’s Hostile Environment policies to leave people across the North West facing poverty, domestic abuse, anxiety and immigration uncertainty.
Financial precariousness, domestic abuse, relationship breakdown, and mental and physical ill health are things that many faced during the pandemic. But having insecure immigration status means the people we support are at far higher risk. Having no recourse to public funds means no access to the UK’s meagre safety net when you’re out of work. Fear of immigration enforcement makes many people scared to report domestic abuse or end abusive relationships. And the Hostile Environment stops an unknowable number from accessing healthcare due to fear of data sharing, detention and deportation.
Our figures show how many people in the North West were in dire need of support. We set up our phone advice line when our usual in-person drop-in service had to close. Between March and December 2020, over 3,000 people called it. Over 1,000 of those people received one-off immigration advice. Many just needed help with the confusing and expensive process of applying for visas. 200 people (from 20 EU countries) risked being in the UK unlawfully because of Brexit. 150 people were experiencing domestic abuse or exploitation, made worse by their immigration situation. 230 faced homelessness or destitution, often because their immigration status stopped them from working or accessing benefits.
And while the pandemic brought new and frightening problems into our callers’ lives, GMIAU staff needed to find new ways to continue supporting their clients remotely. They continued making emergency immigration applications, visa renewals and other representations to prevent people losing status or becoming destitute. You can read about their experiences in our report too.
Amanda, our Senior Policy Officer, says:
“Our report shows the devastating consequences for communities of an immigration system that exploits people because of their race, class and gender. Make no mistake, the pandemic only highlighted the gross injustices already faced by too many people we live and work alongside in the North West.
Priti Patel’s New Plan for Immigration will make this much worse. Her Plan is pure fantasy, makes no sense out of the corridors of power in Westminster and Whitehall, and is being opposed by communities and local leaders across the country. We have first-hand experience in the North West of doing things differently. This report shows how much we need that difference to defend people from being sacrificed to the Home Secretary’s political ambition.”
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