We’re all in shock. Not that we easily admit it to ourselves or each other, but we are. We’re shocked about the existence of COVID19 and, every day, every time we hear another example of the shockingly bad management of COVID19 at Local, National and International levels by States and Agencies vested with the power to advance Public Health, our individually shocked selves get zapped again... and again.
What’s more, whether it arose from a single or multiple/continuous incidents, salt is pouring on the wounds of everyone, everywhere, who is living with any trauma that existed before Covid19.
Right now, who are the people who aren’t:
1. Able to access housing, food and the same sources of income from the State as everyone else?
2. Living in an environment where it is doable and sustainable to follow the Public Health directives: self-isolate as necessary, maintain social distancing, keep cleaning our environment and boosting our immunities, and thereby limit COVID19 viral transmission to the minimum?
In the UK… they are:
Residents, who may also be families that include essential or front line workers, living now in care homes, detention centres, hostels and houses for people seeking asylum, london busses, overcrowded and under-resourced social /private housing/ flats, prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and in the case of young UK people who are undocumented, other peoples’ tenancies.
They are UNABLE to do 1. or live in 2.
If the British State wasn’t previously aware that members of these population groups are living and dying, every day, with barriers between them and environments where it is possible to exercise and sustain vital public health behaviours, IT - as in the British State - became aware of these incontrovertible public health facts on 27th March 2020 when 10 Downing Street received our Open Letter calling for Status Now to secure access to healthcare housing and food for all.
Across Europe… they are:
Among others, our Refugee Sisters and Brothers, advocating for the end of the Direct Provision centres in Ireland and profoundly concerned about a very recent Death in Direct Provision: “is deeply traumatic… among people who escaped deeply traumatic experiences and have often experienced trauma on their migration journey.”
Trauma… that’s what’s being reported by Human Rights Watch too, on the outer edges of Europe where they describe Greek Island refugee camps, ill-prepared for COVID19: ‘Greek authorities have not done enough to address the acute overcrowding and lack of health care, access to adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene products to limit the spread of Covid-19 in camps for asylum seekers’. They call upon Greece’s government to ‘immediately take measures to… avert a public health crisis in environments where “Even handwashing and social distancing are impossible in these circumstances".'
In the Mediterranean Sea itself, the emergence of COVID19 is reported as being used as an excuse not to action the rescue of people in boats within Maltese and Italian Sea Action Rescue zones, leaving people to die of dehydration. Such fatal decisions make activists trying to save lives on the edges of Europe question why, for example, the International Office of Migration “seeks to criminalize so-called "irregular" migration instead of defending the rights of people on migration routes?" They conclude that COVID19 is being weaponised in defence of fortress Europe while the people on those migration routes continue to be UNABLE to do 1. or live in 2.
RAPAR didn’t know the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium before COVID19 but in practically no time our shared commitment to secure healthcare, housing and food for all has forged an indissoluble bond. Illustrating another example of how COVID19 is being weaponised, its coordinator Susan Cueva told us yesterday: "In the Philippines destitution and hunger are growing, especially in urban poor areas as the government’s lockdown measures mean thousands have lost their incomes with no effective measures of government support. President Duterte has ordered his military to shoot-to-kill protestors: on 21 April Winston Ragos, a retired resident in an urban poor area of Manila was shot dead on the spot by soldiers who claim he was violating the lockdown."
Similarly, messages to RAPAR members from family, friends and comrades around the world describe lives becoming evermore difficult in the shadow of COVID19. Alongside every documented worker in the UK whose pleas for PPE and competent testing mechanisms remain unanswered, and every migrant worker in, for example, Singapore who is now experiencing a new 'hard end' as COVID19 resurges there, our Members and our Networks - already in deep distress at the UK and Irish Governments’ blanket non-response, to date, to our call - are also experiencing layer-cake levels of insult: they are stacking on top of our injuries, that are on top of our compounded traumas, that are on top of our original traumas, and if it wasn’t for the knowledge that we will never give up, and therefore we will succeed, the State we’re in would defy description.
When we’re not pulling our hair out we’re scratching our heads at the managerial classes, as in those working to manage the pandemic on behalf of failing States. For example, there is a COVID19 policy google group fronted by the British Red Cross that composes the visible communication interface between the British Home Office and those organisations working in ‘migration’, particularly ‘asylum’ and invited to its network. This very morning the Refugee Council of Great Britain used this google group to tell workers in the sector that ‘the majority of the [Home Office] Statelessness Determination Team are now back up and running’…. The question is, where exactly are they running to?
Some musical salve?
It is one month today since RAPAR published its first response to the emergence of COVID19.
It is one month minus one day since its first public statement and press release called upon the State to suspend all detention and deportation activities, including legal processes, and invite all undocumented, displaced and destitute people, i.e. those most acutely vulnerable to COVID-19, to come forward for safe housing, without fear of being snatched or locked up, and so that they may contribute, openly, to making the population as safe as possible. This grounded the Open Letter Petition that anyone can sign here.
RAPAR Patron, Mark George Q.C. says: “The current health crisis has shown us all that when necessary governments take all sorts of action they would not normally consider taking. Now we need the government to take this important action to protect the health and welfare of everyone in our society.”
In the last 24 hours, RAPAR has been:
RAPAR Patron, Canon Professor Nicholas Sagovsky says: 'The Covid-19 crisis has shown us how reliant the NHS and carehomes are on people from many countries who have made Britain their home. Sadly, a growing number have given their lives caring for others. RAPAR is showing us that for many migrants, especially the undocumented, it is impossible to remain safe. This is not acceptable and must be changed.'
Over ten years ago, sitting in the garden of a house inside the Westminster village, a RAPAR member was in discussion with a Lord whose family had been vested with the title in the 1100’s. He observed “The ruling class have perfected the art of doing nothing. They grind you down by doing nothing.”
When people know that what they are doing - or failing to do - is both completely avoidable and deadly, they are committing crimes against humanity.
Today, I'm a part of you dear.
For any Government to call itself Democratic it must be prepared to
Furthermore, however much time is available, fear inhibits learning (see esp. page 16) and so, at this juncture, let’s remember and reflect on Marie Curie’s words:
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Maybe Marie can help us to work out how we can minimise fear and maximise #healthandsafetyforall.
The ‘hostile environment’* was up and running long before ‘COVID19’ developed. And the Institutionalised Racism upon which the Hostile Environment rests was identified half a century ago.
Yesterday, the New York Times carried a quote about this very issue from Professor Aneez Esmail. He is the leader of our campaign for the Registration of Medical Professionals in the UK and you can read Professor Esmail’s comment, following the publication of that NY Times article, here.
Hostility breeds fear: that’s exactly what it is intended to do. How much fear is out there? And how quickly can the people and organisations who reject both institutionalised racism and the hostile environment learn?
People who are Destitute + Documented + in the UK = DDUK = People…
who are denied the right to work legally and who the Government knows are in the UK, somewhere. The Government knows they are in the UK somewhere because they are either:
Are you Destitute and Undocumented in the UK (DUUK)?
People who are Destitute + Undocumented + in UK = DUUK = British People and Anyone Else…
who has no address, which means that the Government does not know exactly where they are right now, there is no lawyer currently on their case, and/or they don't have paper 'proofs' about who they are, like birth certificates or household bills. If they are not British they have also been denied the right to work legally. All of them have fallen through the cracks of either:
“With Covid19 our situation has worsened. Some cases have been suspended altogether, and people cannot meet their lawyers to discuss issues relating to their cases. They are hoping for their cases to be treated and to be given the freedom they deserve but they are not getting this. They live with friends who are sharing their shelter with them or through charitable hosts set up to help destitute people. Essentially, they are living with people who were strangers to them before they became destitute and who have offered them places to stay.
Very few people seeking asylum have phones and the few who do are unable to top up their phones so it is even more difficult for them to connect with their support networks. Some have laptops but cannot gain access to wifi. This has greatly slowed down the support and advocacy activities the people had developed within our communities. It is a trying moment for most of us because we have no way of getting any money to buy top ups or wifi connection. Practically all the organisations that used to support us with bus fees to travel to get their food, or join in on their events, have now been closed down and, in fact, accessing food has become a very big problem.
Many of the charitable organisations that people knew, that used to provide food or help us with food banks weekly, they are closed. Worst of all is the fact that some people are on the verge of being thrown out of their homes and it will be even more difficult for them to survive on the street.”
On Easter Sunday, RAPAR member Mary, Destitute and Undocumented in the UK, DUUK, sent this photo and writing:
“RAPAR gave me good encouragement the other day, by saying to stay strong because the next day one of the lady that I work with she text me to come as she was missing seeing somebody. Then I call her she was crying as she was having some problem and I remember RAPAR said to be strong. So I had to be strong for other people and she was happy when she saw me she gave me food and some money. I keep remembering what you said. We have to be strong for each other. Some days I feel a bit low but I keep remembering what you said to me. Before this, I worked in a shop in xxx. Then I did caring and now I am working in family homes. I wasn't interested in working in people's home but out of it good came. I met good people who understand my situation and are helping me.”
For almost 20 years, since it first began to systematically evict people failed by the migration system into destitution the British State has stoked a fire. But, thankfully, no human being is an island, including the human beings who live in countries that also happen to be islands. A ‘fog of war’*** surrounds us ALL. With each other’s help, can we clear our vision sufficiently to enable ourselves and each other to think out loud, reach rational decisions together and act accordingly?
At this juncture, the only actions that are any use are those based in truthful information: concrete and real, coming from comprehensive, accurate, valid and reliable information sources that are as near to ‘objective’ reality as possible i.e. not intrinsically biased because of the way in which their ‘facts’ have been created.
In the 1990’s, Patricia Hill Collins explained to us : 'For any body of knowledge, new knowledge claims must be consistent with an existing body of knowledge that the group controlling the interpretive context accepts as true.’ She went on to say, ‘The methods used to validate knowledge claims must be acceptable to the group controlling the knowledge validation process.' Her truth invites us to walk in the footsteps of the sociolinquistic theorist Volosinov, who developed a theory of 'language creation from below'. We’ll come back, another day, to retrace those footsteps but, in the meantime, here’s a pdf of his book .
On Easter Sunday, one mainstream press article advised us, statistics wise, about what can we trust and what should we ignore. It began with the assertion that statistics about ‘the number of people who have actually become infected… depend[s] crucially on the testing regime.’
Of course, it’s a massive challenge to decide what to publish on the internet but, if it’s going to be of real use for the overwhelming majority of people, then whatever is published must be precise.
In a Journal of Advanced Nursing website blog about problems with the government lockdown, its first point ‘There might be a real increase in cases but there is a form of categorization occurring in the NHS where deaths with the non-specific symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 (the presumed viral agent)(Covid19 is the disease) are being attributed to SARS-CoV-2 without serological or laboratory (tissue culture) confirmation.’ prompts many questions. As does its third point: The tests for Covid19 are not yet calibrated to different populations like those without symptoms. ‘Died after testing positive for Covid19’ (what we hear daily in the media) is not the same as ‘died due to Covid19’ which is an evidence-based statement of disease causation. This Easter Rising blog began with a Clinical Governance-based reference to how organisations learn. Just in is this early release (due out May 2020) paper from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention about Emerging Infectious Diseases. Public Health England, the UK Department of Health and the medical Royal Colleges must take the time to respond to all the points being raised through these scientific critiques from JAN and CDC.
And while we’re on the subject of timely responses…
As yet, the Office of the UK Prime Minister has neither acknowledged, nor responded to our Open Letter sent to Downing Street on 27th March and now platformed as a petition for anyone to sign. The Office of the Irish Taoiseach has advised us that he referred our letter to the Minister for Justice and Equality , but that Minister received his own copy of our Open letter at the same time as the Taoiseach and, like Number 10, his Office hasn’t responded, as yet.
It isn’t the first time: See Channel 4 in the spring of 2016 in News from Calais.
While we wait, and rest assured we’re not holding our breath, our Filipino Sisters and Brothers are preparing shrines to honour their dead, and our Congolese Sisters and Brothers who continue to mourn their deaths, are also asserting are lives.
For any Government to call itself Democratic it must be prepared to subject itself to scrutiny, hold itself to account and engage with its population, whether they are ‘Citizens’ or not.
For those of you who’ve arrived here… we hope you enjoy this.
*Moran RA, (2003). Clinical Governance: An International Journal. Volume 8 Number 1 pp. 46-56
**Also see Forthcoming, McMahon G. and Moran R.A. (2020) Young people seeking asylum: voice and activism in a ‘hostile environment’. In Young people’s participation, Revisiting youth and inequalities, editors, Maria Bruselius-Jensen, Ilaria Pitti and Kay Tisda. Bristol, Policy Press
***According to Wikipedia, the first known use of the exact phrase "fog of war" in text only dates to 1896, described as "the state of ignorance in which commanders frequently find themselves as regards the real strength and position, not only of their foes, but also of their friends." “The fog of war” by Col. Lonsdale Hale, Royal Engineers (retired), Aldershot Military Academy, March 24, 1896.
Susan Cueva is from the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium that supports vulnerable Filipino migrant people. She says: “We are aware that there are many undocumented workers in the UK who are in this situation. They have lost their jobs due to the lockdown and are ineligible for government support. They often live in crowded conditions with other undocumented workers and they are too scared to go to a doctor or hospital.”
Today, in partnership with RAPAR, the Consortium has followed up contact with several of the 60 MPs who are reported in both the Edinburgh News
and the Guardian as having written to the Home Secretary. The MP's have requested that foreign nationals working in the NHS be granted indefinite leave to remain. Writing directly to the MP’s and to other political figures who they know, the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium has asked for support in extending this request to all undocumented and destitute people living in the UK and Ireland. They ask the politicians to sign the Open Letter Petition, dating from 27th March, so that “all people, irrespective of status, are extended human rights and offered hope and solidarity during this extraordinary period in the history of humanity.”
And also today, the day after Elvis died, Doctors of the World have been at the forefront of launching an open letter to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care calling for the immediate suspension of NHS Charging Regulations.
For more information contact:
Kath Grant, RAPAR Press Officer, 07758386208/ kath.northernstories(at)gmail.com
Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR Chair of Trustees, 07776264646/ rhetta.moran(at)rapar.org.uk
Undocumented Workers now looking after British Elders in Care Homes and Irish Carer workers still stuck in Direct Provision Centres
Today, a representative from a Filipino community organisation, which advocates on behalf of frontline nurses and care home workers in the UK, including undocumented workers who lost their jobs in the current crisis and who cannot access any State support, contacted RAPAR. Deaths attributed to the coronavirus have occurred among undocumented workers in the Filipino community.
The representative described how one such worker, Rose, forced to leave her care home job because of Home Office changes to requirements for visas for migrant care worker, is living in a British City with six other undocumented people in cramped accommodation. Rose is surviving from the money she is getting from the children of British elders who are paying her to go into the nursing home where their parents live to look after them.
No one outside of an environment where they can self isolate as needed, stay clean, and maintain social distancing has the power to follow the Public Health directives necessary to limit COVID19 viral transmission to the absolute minimum. Anyone can now sign the Open Letter petition, launched by 37 organisations across Ireland and the UK, with receipt now signed for at Downing Street and the Dublin offices of the Taoiseach, calling upon the UK Prime Minister and the Taoiseach of Ireland to use their vested powers to instruct the British and Irish States to act immediately and in all ways necessary so that ALL undocumented people, destitute people and migrant people in legal process in both the UK and Ireland are granted Status Now: Leave to Remain.
Also today, MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) told RAPAR “People seeking asylum in Ireland who work as care givers are risking their lives to protect the Irish people and are still having to return to over-populated rooms in Direct Provision Centres. The number of people in the Centres who are presenting with COVID-19 symptoms keeps on growing, yet no one from the Irish Government is disclosing the number of people living in Direct Provision who are testing positive. We call on the Irish Government to house Carer Workers alongside everyone else currently in Direct Provision, in safe places from which they may continue their exceptional work caring for others.”
The Irish and British Governments have the power to enable undocumented people, immediately, to care and protect themselves, their loved ones and their living and working communities. RAPAR asks “When will they stop moving the deckchairs*, use their power and save lives?” (*move (the) deckchairs on the Titanic’: To partake in or undertake some task, activity, or course of action that will ultimately prove trivial or futile in its possible effect or outcome.
Homelessness, HS2 and Here to sign the petition #healthandsafetyforall
See ATD Fourth World's new platform for the Open Letter here.
Meanwhile, the UK Government’s Home Office:
1. …Now has the power to enter your home without a warrant and remove any person living there if they think, with reasonable cause, that they are infected with Covid-19 – see police powers here. We are told by a Police Commissioner that "It's a collective endeavour. This is ultimately about saving lives and not putting a strain on the NHS and our other emergency services." Health Secretary Matt Hancock warns us "we cannot relax our discipline now"….
And yet the Home Office…
2. …Did not intervene when Bailiffs and HS2 security failed to maintain social distancing (see film here) during their attempt – under the cover of darkness on Monday night - to dislodge the young British people trying to stop more trees being cut down. Someone involved in Reclaim the Power one of the signatories to the Open Letter Petition initiated by RAPAR says:
‘This pandemic has shown us that business as usual has to change, but the state is pushing ahead with this expensive destruction of ancient woodlands instead of putting all available resources into healthcare and support for those affected. Tree and land occupations already take a stand for human health; as protecting natural spaces gives us cleaner air, and less extreme weather like floods. Evicting environmental protestors at a time of coronavirus and climate crisis means impacts on human health now and in the near future. To protect all of our health - evictions must stop!'
Just this morning, RAPAR was sent this update where activists claim police are citing "the need for social distancing" to justify blocking news outlets filming the HS2 site.
And, if that wasn't enough...
3.… Homeless people are still on the streets despite government calls to house all during pandemic. Debbie from Youth House, based in Greater Manchester Law Centre, has spoken with RAPAR (See previous work with our UK Citizen Homeless People here) about a collective of three non-commissioned agencies who feed the street homeless on Manchester City Centre’s streets.
Debbie says this week they have been telling her of incidents when Manchester City Council Officers threatened the people trying to feed the street homeless with Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO’s). On Thursday, Manchester City Council confirmed that there are in excess of 100 people still street homeless on the city centre streets. See recent Local TV coverage about our Public Health campaign to minimise viral transmission risk here.
And finally last, but most definitely not least, the Home Office is...
4. … Using UK tax payer’s money to pay the private companies that house refugees.
Correspondence sent on Wednesday from UNHCR to the British Red Cross and shared with RAPAR, sets out UNHCR's awareness of a lack of provision of cleaning products… they say that “many are experiencing anxiety over not being able to disinfect communal and personal, particularly given the difficulties in social distancing in shared accommodations and HMOs” and others “report that they are either unable to afford the level of cleaning products and hand soap needed to regularly disinfect the communal areas and to wash their hands…”. UNHCR also observes that information is not in the public domain about the sub-contracted companies who manage the day to day running of the accommodation for people-seeking asylum. Contractual obligations are outlined here.
A recent individual signatory to the open petition wrote to RAPAR saying “I support this petition...it's the truth". Another new signatory, Baobab Women's Project in Birmingham told us they signed because "Human rights should apply equally to all, and this is especially important in times of crisis. We all should have equal access to resources in order to stay healthy. It is the same blood in our veins, we are human not numbers."