The impact that the coronavirus pandemic, and subsequent lockdown, is having on young unaccompanied refugees and asylum seekers has been overviewed in evidence submitted by JCORE to the APPG on Social Integration’s inquiry on Covid-19 and social isolation.
Already one of the most vulnerable and isolated groups in society, the submission emphasizes that while the coronavirus has introduced new difficulties, it has also exacerbated several pre-existing challenges.
Concerningly, the submission stresses that at a time when digital communication is crucial, young asylum seekers and refugees face digital poverty, providing a severe social, technological and academic disadvantage.
The submission also highlights that while many services, including JUMP, JCORE’s befriending project which has supported young unaccompanied asylum seekers for over a decade, have quickly adapted to phone and internet-based communication, social distancing measures have had a major impact on young people’s social isolation.
Furthermore, networks and services that young people are reliant on have either severely reduced or shut down completely, with limited statutory financial support, stockpiling and supermarket shortages providing a very real risk of hunger and extreme poverty.
As a result of these findings, JCORE are calling on the government and local authorities to:
End digital poverty and provide fully funded internet access to young people.
Provide better quality housing which is suitable to the requirements of social isolation and social distancing.
Suspend ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ conditions so that everyone can access healthcare without fear of repercussion.
Ensure all young people receive the necessary mental health support.
Increase statutory support and lift the ban on asylum seekers working.
Extend post-Brexit immigration rules to enable far wider refugee family reunification.
The full submission can be read here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/17soJGHk7acLAA0PYBvxixx-3ZRcl-VqZ/view
Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director at JCORE, said: “This period of national emergency has revealed how much more needs to be done for young unaccompanied refugees and asylum seekers. Our submission highlights that digital poverty, the reduction or closure of vital services and ending of face-to-face contact have had a severe impact on young unaccompanied refugee and asylum seekers’ social isolation during Covid-19. However, many of the difficulties facing this group are not new. The pandemic has further revealed how limited the government’s support for young refugees and asylum seekers is, and again exposed the callousness of the hostile environment.
While the response of the sector has been admirable, the government must take far greater action to ensure that the most vulnerable are fully supported. When normality resumes, it must also ensure that its new Immigration Bill and post-Brexit EU arrangements enable far wider refugee family reunification.”