Hostile environment policies and failures in government decision-making have exacerbated the impact of Covid-19 on migrants particularly those with insecure immigration status, according to migrants’ rights campaigners calling on the government to ensure the inquiry into the pandemic examines ‘flaws’ in the immigration system. In a new report, the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) highlight how the Home Office’s anti-migrant approach has exposed migrants to ‘increased risk from Covid, undermined wider public health efforts and introduced greater dysfunctionality into an already-broken immigration system’.
Earlier in the month Baroness Hallett, chair of the Covid-19 inquiry, wrote to the Prime Minister recommending changes to the draft terms of reference to ensure that the unequal impact of the pandemic was at the forefront of its work. PILC and JCWI’s report documents how anti-migrant policies and processes ‘including the No Recourse to Public Funds regime, right-to-rent and work checks, NHS data sharing and charging, the asylum accommodation system, and inhumane immigration enforcement measures’ have made it more difficult for migrants’ to access essential support during Covid-19.
‘As the rest of country starts to move on from the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact of the government’s failings will continue long into the future for many of those who have been subject to hostile immigration policies over the last two years,’ comments Ellen Fotheringham, solicitor at PILC. ‘This report shows that, throughout the pandemic, the government repeatedly ignored experts and cast aside commitments to public health and fundamental rights in order to drive through an anti-migrant agenda. Such conduct should be grave concern to everyone in the UK.’
Caitlin Boswell, policy and advocacy adviser at JCWI, welcomed Baroness Hallet’s decision to include migrants in the upcoming Covid Inquiry. ‘It’s time this government learned lessons from the pandemic and stopped playing fast and loose with migrant and refugees’ lives. That’s why we’re calling on the PM to ensure the Inquiry considers the impact of the hostile environment, and the experiences of all migrants – including those who are undocumented.’