Asylum seekers failed by coronavirus lockdown

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Home Office: Asylum paperwork is collected in Liverpool. Image from Google. 

Refugees seeking asylum are still being forced to travel to Liverpool to hand in documents.

 

17th March 2020 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Asylum seekers are still being required to go to Liverpool to hand in documents despite official guidelines advising people to avoid travel during the coronavirus outbreak.

Currently, anyone seeking asylum in the UK is required to lodge their submissions at the Liverpool Home Office – a process that can take as little as five minutes.

Campaigners are now demanding these requirements are lifted while the outbreak is ongoing, warning that lives are being risked every day the current arrangement remains in place.

Positive Action in Housing, the refugee and migrant homelessness charity, warned that failing to take immediate action to protect asylum seekers was “a public health disaster waiting to happen”.

Robina Qureshi, the charity’s director, said: “"One of our service users, Nadiyah, 48, is travelling to Liverpool by train today to lodge her new asylum application at the Liverpool Home Office. She has serious health problems and is a high-risk category.

“This is the third time she has made this journey. Her lawyer phoned the Home Office in Liverpool and suggested that, at least while the coronavirus epidemic was in progress, clients should be allowed to post their documents. The Home Office categorically refused to consider this.

"It is utter madness in the current situation to make people travel via public transport at this time. All that is involved is that an envelope of evidence is handed in. This takes a maximum of five minutes.”

There are also concerns for volunteers working to support asylum seekers in Liverpool itself. Nadiyah usually stays with a host from community hosting network Room for Refugees when she travels to the city, but has decided not to on this occasion as her host is over 70 and herself has health issues.

Positive Action on Housing is now leading calls for MPs to relax the current rules and allow documents to be sent by post or handed in to the Home Office in Glasgow.

“Due to poverty and poor diet and the stress of Home Office delays that run into years, asylum seekers especially are likely to have weakened immune systems,” Ms Qureshi said.

"There are 5,000 asylum seekers in Glasgow, which has the highest asylum population in the UK. It is beyond belief that the Home Office - a government department - would go against government advice not to travel. We are calling on the home secretary and the Home Office to step in and stop all travel to Liverpool and allow refugees and asylum seekers to post their submissions in order to let everyone stay safe.”

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “People should follow Public Health England’s advice, anyone who needs to stay at home should. Failed asylum seekers should contact the Home Office if they cannot travel to an appointment. 

“We are putting in place alternative arrangements to ensure those who cannot attend an appointment can continue to lodge a further submission.”