Scottish Refugee Council welcomes Public Health Scotland’s newly published guidance for local authorities and other homelessness services on keeping people in their care safe from COVID.
The guidance outlines services’ responsibilities towards assisting people who are at threat of or who are experiencing homelessness, including refugees and people who have ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF).
It also recognises that people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and destitution will struggle to access information about Covid-19, and calls on frontline staff and volunteers to ensure that everybody is as informed as possible.
The guidance is a first step in addressing the information deficits, heightened anxiety, and displacement that many vulnerable communities have suffered since Covid-19 struck.
Scottish Refugee Council worked with Public Health Scotland, the Scottish Government, and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) to ensure that people seeking safety in Scotland were included in the guidance.
Graham O’Neill, Policy Manager, Scottish Refugee Council said:
“Across the UK, we are in or on the cusp of a new national lockdown, as a highly contagious new variant of Covid-19 takes hold. Evictions into homelessness and destitution at this time are unconscionable.
“We support 100% Glasgow City Council’s, Scottish Ministers’, the Welsh Government’s and local authorities and Mayors’ across England – in their message to the Home Office to desist from asylum evictions until this pandemic is over and the vaccine is rolled out.
“Now is the time for the Home Office to listen and follow the public health imperative and lawful course of action: no evictions and no homelessness until we are through this spiralling crisis.
“The Home Office must give a new public assurance now, that nobody will be evicted from asylum accommodation this winter, and ideally until Covid-19 ceases to be a threat to public health. That ensures all with insecure immigration status are able to follow public health guidance and stay safe.
“We also call for everyone with insecure immigration status to be given temporary leave-to-remain. This enables people to access statutory services, use skills to support the pandemic effort, and take pressure off individuals, communities and services and the Home Office at this worrying time.
“Public Health Scotland recognising, through this guidance, the needs of people seeking asylum and those stuck in the NRPF regime, is just the beginning. We need clear policies and assurance that people in the asylum system will be treated with dignity as we fight through this pandemic together.”