MP for Poplar and Limehouse urges government to be kinder to migrants during coronavirus crisis

Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse. Picture: Mike Brooke

Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

The MP for Poplar and Limehouse is one of a number of politicians calling for migrants to be given greater protection during the coronavirus crisis.

In recent days Apsana Begum has signed letters written to the secretary of state for health and social care and the home secretary respectively.

They call for changes to be made in how migrants, both documented and undocumented, are being treated during this pandemic.

The government must act, according to the group, so that it fulfils its promise to “do whatever necessary” to fight coronavirus.

The April 17 letter to health secretary Matt Hancock urged the government to suspend all NHS charging for migrants, welcoming the announcement that Covid-19 is now exempt from charge.

Ms Begum and her co-signatories cited an example of a Filipino migrant who died at home from coronavirus as he was fearful of extortionate charges if he sought help from the NHS.

They also request that the government suspend data sharing between the NHS and Home Office, explaining that many migrants will not attend hospital because of the risk of immigration enforcement.

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The group says this is an opportunity to send the message that migrants are both part of society and of the crisis response, and to reverse years of so-called “hostile environment policies”.

The April 15 letter to home secretary Priti Patel echoes many of the same sentiments, with some additional points.

Firstly, the MPs say that indefinite leave to remain should be granted to all migrant NHS staff, on top of the visa extensions recently announced: “Our NHS is already woefully understaffed. Extending some visas is not enough. Those fighting the virus for British residents should have the same rights as British residents.”

The group also calls for an end to the no recourse to public funds policy, which prevents documented migrants from accessing the welfare state whilst they reside legally in the UK.

It says this lack of state support can lead to migrants putting themselves at risk by continuing to work.

The letter concludes: “It is in the interests of all of us to ensure that everyone, no matter where they were born, has the means to stay healthy during the crisis.”