20th July 2020


As 
Sisters Not Strangers coalition partners we are proud to release the 'Hear Us: the experiences of refugee and asylum-seeking women during the pandemic' report. We have surveyed over 100 asylum-seeking women from England and Wales to hear how they are surviving during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was completed by women who are seeking and have been refused asylum, as well as those with leave to remain. These responses were supplemented by a survey of 24 staff and volunteers who have been supporting asylum-seeking women since the outbreak.

'This research is so important because when we speak as individuals it can sound like we are trying to dramatise the situation. It's not drama, it's real life.'
- Loraine Mponela, Chairperson of CARAG

'Being destitute during a pandemic is the worst feeling ever, it makes you feel like you are just a box and if someone wanted to kick you they could; you are just an object, not a human with feelings.'
- Edra, an asylum-seeking woman in the appeals process 

Findings of the survey confirmed what we already knew; that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the safety and well-being of asylum-seeking and refugee women. Already marginalised by mainstream society and subjected to deep structural inequalities, asylum-seeking and refugee women are some of the hardest hit by the virus. They have experienced hunger, homelessness, mental health has deteriorated and women with pre-existing health conditions have struggled to access healthcare. Women have experienced high levels of social isolation as a result of digital poverty and haven't been able to secure based items such as soap and hand sanitiser.

Our primary recommendation is for a grant of leave to remain to be given to all those with insecure immigration status, to ensure the safety of those seeking asylum, to protect public health, and to enable British society to rebuild more equally. We are also calling for other vital reforms;

Equality

Everyone in the UK should be able to access sufficient income, safe housing and equality before the law. 

  • A meaningful uplift in asylum support, since £39.60 is wholly inadequate to meet basic needs;
  • Financial support for all those who have sought asylum as long as they remain in the UK;
  • Safe accommodation for all, so that women are not forced onto the streets or into abusive situations;
  • Right to work for those seeking asylum whose cases have not been resolved within six months, unconstrained by the shortage occupation list;
  • Reform of the legal aid system so that everyone seeking asylum can access quality legal representation.

Care

Everyone in the UK should be able to access care for their mental and physical health needs.

  • Increased investment in mental health care throughout the UK;
  • Measures to prohibit data sharing between the NHS and immigration enforcement. 

Connection

Everyone in the UK needs to be able to access information about their rights and be able to communicate effectively with others 

  • Internet provision in all social housing, included that provided by the Home Office and that provided by local authorities.


The experiences of asylum-seeking and refugee women as shown in this report show the need to build a more equal, caring and connected society as we move out of the pandemic. 

'Don't oppress me and take away my voice because I am a women and because of my race. We are all the same. Listen to us, hear our voices!'
Lo Lo, an asylum-seeking woman



DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

DOWNLOAD THE SUMMARY

If you are able to donate to support asylum-seeking and refugee women during the pandemic, please head to our Just Giving page

Thumbnail photo credit: Sara Sakharkar