Migrants are our families, our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours. Yet, in the middle of a pandemic, the UK Government prioritises immigration enforcement over public health.
First published in January 2021.
Government failure to ensure safety and security of frontline staff, let alone all migrants, during a pandemic is a disturbing indicator of how even a public health emergency is secondary to pandering to an increasingly diminishing minority of xenophobes.
Setting aside concepts such as humanity and morals, on a purely practical level the government’s treatment of migrants at the best of time is counterproductive to the best interests of the country. During the pandemic, they have been actively harmful.
It is not just a matter of whether frontline staff may be deported, as if that wasn’t bad enough. Forcing migrants to have to travel distances to fulfil visa requirements, deterring undocumented migrants from being able to access medical assistance for fear of being detained.
The Prime Minister deliberately or otherwise failing to understand how “No recourse to public funds” means that many migrants can’t access necessary support, leaving trained medical staff in camps rather than granting them asylum at a time when the health service needs staff, minimum income requirements.
On and on it goes where migrants face the brunt of the pandemic while being demonised by the UK Government. Migrants have been disproportionately affected by Covid, through exclusion from health services, increased job losses or just meeting government rules.
When faced with a disease which is so virulent many would assume that a prime consideration was ensuring that the maximum number of people could be treated or vaccinated. Prioritising immigration enforcement over public health means that this is not likely to happen.
We are seeing an increase in non-UK citizens, as well as an overall decline in the population. This all may be something which that declining minority of xenophobes think is great news. For any politician who actually cares about what happens next it should be highly concerning.
We constantly hear about how important it is to protect the economy and ensure it can “restart” as effectively as possible, as soon as possible. That is fair, but it requires skills and experience. It requires migrants. It requires the very people the government is forcing out.
Even were migrants not essential for the functioning of the NHS, or the wider economy, they would still be our families, our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours.
Dan Sohege, Human rights advocate, international refugee law specialist, immigration economist, charity fundraising professional and Director of Stand For All.
Check their Voting Record: