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Refugees and people seeking asylum have seen the very worst of humanity.
At this unprecedented time, we have the chance to show them the best.

Many refugees and people seeking asylum are among the worst-affected in this coronavirus emergency

Refugee Action is responding to the particular problems faced by people seeking safety in the UK which put them at high risk during this pandemic.

To name a few, these include difficulties in accessing healthcare, being more likely to have pre-existing health conditions and experiencing homelessness or very poor quality housing.

Although their needs – safety, security, dignity – in many ways match those of everyone living in the UK, we have had to change dramatically the way we provide support to meet these needs.

We moved rapidly to put the wellbeing of refugees, people seeking asylum, our staff and volunteers at the centre of our response, preparing weeks beforehand for the practicalities of social distancing and restricted travel.

We are using translators and interpreters to make sure the families we support understand the latest government advice and information as it develops.

Our support is now being delivered over telephone and video calls. All of our staff have the equipment they need to offer the same level of support, albeit remotely.

“All the hallmarks of poverty in the UK, multiplied by a thousand.”

Hear from Louise Calvey, Refugee Action’s Head of Resettlement

What are the problems intensified by the coronavirus?

Poverty and hunger

“Without money to panic buy, we just panic.”

  • People seeking asylum are forced to live off less than £40 a week. They are issued with prepaid cards that are only uploaded with credit weekly, and can only be used in certain shops.
  • This is not enough to cover essentials at the best of times, let alone now. People are going hungry and we expect this to get worse.

Homelessness and unsafe accommodation

“Most of us will feel forgotten at this time.”

  • We’re working hard to help homeless and destitute people seeking asylum to access accommodation.
  • Social distancing and self-isolation is proving near-impossible as people seeking asylum are expected to share bedrooms with strangers and live in crowded spaces.

Extreme isolation

“Most of us live with depression surrounding what we fled and what we go through every day. The coronavirus fears will definitely add to it.”

  • There is a high level of confusion and anxiety among people seeking asylum in the current crisis. People often do not speak English, or have access to a TV, computer or smart phone.

Hear the voice of Jack, who is
seeking asylum in the UK

"I thought I was stronger, but I found out that I'm not. In this situation, we are all equally affected by this virus. It doesn't matter if we are the prime minister, if we are asylum seekers."

How Refugee Action is responding

Keeping our distance while keeping up support

Within one week, we set up the whole Refugee Action team to work remotely. In seven days alone, our frontline team took more than 1,300 actions to support people seeking safety while observing official social distancing advice.

We conduct regular meetings with the refugees and people seeking asylum that we work with over Skype, WhatsApp, or telephone.

26p is nowhere near enough

When lockdown began, people seeking asylum were left waiting for an announcement on Asylum Support, the Home Office payments they rely on due to being banned from working.

After 12 weeks of agonising delay, payments were raised by just 26p to £5.66 per day to deal with the pandemic. Expecting people to survive this crisis on less than £40 a week is completely unacceptable and we’re determined to fight this dismal decision. Join us by emailing your MP.

How you can help

If you’re in a position to donate, we need all the help we can get to ensure that people seeking safety in the UK get the support they need during this coronavirus emergency.

Your generosity helps us continue to be there for isolated, vulnerable people and families and fight for their rights during an incredibly difficult time.