The coronavirus pandemic has intensified the effects of the hostile environment on undocumented migrants in the UK, with many experiencing loss of income, unsafe working conditions and scared to seek help if they have the virus, a report has found.
The Kanlungan Filipino Consortium and human rights charity RAPAR uncovered evidence of exploitative employment and overcrowded living conditions, making physical distancing impossible.
More than half of Filipino migrants surveyed had lost all of their work and income and others were paid as little as £2 an hour. One was living in a five-bedroom flat with 13 other people, all of whom had Covid-19 symptoms.
Out of the 78 respondents, 59 of whom were undocumented, 13 had experienced coronavirus symptoms but only one had sought medical care, highlighting fears about costs and/or being reported to the immigration authorities.
Maria Nola, a registered nurse in the Philippines, who is undocumented, said: “You are stressed with the financial things. You are stressed because [what] if you get it [Covid-19] and then you pass it on? It’s been three months now – no money. Your mood is very low. You don’t even want to move, you don’t even want to get up. It is depression.”
Nine out of 10 survey respondents were care and domestic workers, and none did work that could be carried out from their own home. Many reported losing work because of the risk of transmitting coronavirus to employers, pushing them into more desperate circumstances.
John, who has asthma and lives with his partner and their four-year-old autistic child, said: “Even if it’s dangerous, even if it’s risky for me, I have to go out and work to provide for my family.”
Several studies have found people from ethnic minorities to be at greater risk of testing positive for and dying from coronavirus than the white British population. Filipino workers – of which there are 18,500 working in the NHS – have featured heavily among the healthcare workers who have died from Covid-19.
The report says that “while the UK is celebrating care workers and keyworkers as heroes, the workforce of informally employed migrant carers and cleaners has remained invisible”.
Maria Nola said: “If I had papers now … They will benefit from my full service, my full knowledge. I can help in the community, especially now with covid.”
Respondents were paid £6.01 per hour on average, compared with the government’s “national living wage”of £8.72 and the independently set living wage of £9.30. With no access to coronavirus financial safety nets, some are relying on informal loans and/or handouts from charities.
While the government says no charging or immigration checks will be carried out in the diagnosis or treatment of coronavirus, interviewees were unaware and had been put off by previous healthcare experiences .
The key recommendations of the report, written by the British Academy researcher Dr Ella Parry-Davies, are the ending of hostile environment policies, NHS charges and data-sharing, which it says still goes on in certain circumstances despite successful legal action, and the regularising of all undocumented migrants.
Susan Cueva, a trustee of the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium, said: “Many of the undocumented Filipinos in the UK are trained nurses, healthcare workers, teachers, or childminders. Their only wish is to contribute their skills to British society without being exploited and to improve the lives and futures of their families. It is not a crime to hope for a better life.”
The Home Office has been approached for comment.
The names of the undocumented migrants have been changed.asfd