Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This page is a resource hub of important guidance and information for those working with asylum seekers and refugees in the North East.

The North East Migration Partnership team are following government guidelines and are working from home, however are available to contact via email – nemp@middlesbrough.gov.uk

Each of the below boxes expand to provide more detail on each topic.

Government Guidance - Translated

If you are looking for the current UK government guidance regarding Coronavirus which is translated, please use the following links:

Stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection is available here, which includes information of the symptoms, social distancing and self-isolation. It is available in different languages including; Arabic, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Polish, Urdu, Welsh and more.

Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK and protecting older people and vulnerable adults in English, Arabic, Bengali, French, Gujarati, Polish, Punjabi, Simplified Chinese- Mandarin, Traditional Chinese- Cantonese, Urdu and Welsh is available here

Doctors of the World have produced translated versions of the guidance in a variety of different languages, this is available here.

(Added 06/04) Translated Letters for At Risk Patients – versions of the at risk letter which has been sent to vulnerable patients has been translated into a range of different languages. These are available here.

Asylum Information

Voluntary Returns Service The Home Office have decided to currently cease offering assisted returns at the time, due to difficulties of assisting returns as well as the infrastructure, it has made it become impossible to offer the level of support needed at this time. They will however continue to register an interest from people who wish to return, and to offer other levels of support to help as many people as they possibly can, including arranging flights, get travel documents etc. and to talk through the offer on an individual basis. Further information and how to be in touch can be accessed here.

Section 95 support – Due to the current Covid19 pandemic, there has been a pause in face to face substantive asylum interviews. There are likely to be delays in initial decision-making and in asylum appeals taking place. Therefore people may remain entitled to s95 support for longer. Those that do lose their asylum appeals should remain on support as, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is impossible for them to leave the UK. In the event that they do receive notification that their s95 support is being discontinued, they should immediately apply for s4 support. Further details can be found here .

Asylum seekers with a fresh claim – The majority of refused asylum-seekers on s4 support have outstanding fresh claims as it has long been established that it is not reasonable to be expected to leave the UK when waiting for a decision on a fresh claim. The Further Submissions Unit has closed to face to face further submissions appointments and it is now possible to send the further submissions in post. More information can be found here .

Move On Period the Minister has announced that for the next three months asylum seekers will not be asked to leave their asylum accommodation. We have also received clarification that financial support will also continue. In the letter, the Minister sets out that this will reviewed towards the end of June. The letter sent to the Red Cross is available here.

Added 30.04.20

Asylum Operations are continuing to make and serve decisions on cases where there is enough information to do so – They are continuing to review them on a case by case basis, ensuring those with significant safeguarding concerns or vulnerabilities are only served if appropriate to do so. Decisions that may be affected, and therefore on hold include; 1) where a recipient may be vulnerable to destitution as a result of our decision and/or 2) where an individual is particularly vulnerable, an example being someone with mental health conditions, and also those with disabilities.

Regional Asylum Intake Units – additional locations – The AIU in Croydon will continue to function as normal but will additionally be supported by limited operations in Glasgow, Belfast, Liverpool, Leeds, Solihull and Cardiff. These will be to meet the demands of asylum registrations within the geographical area and will not operate a 5-day service. Click here for more information.

New factsheet on asylum accommodation and applications – has been produced by the UK Government in light of coronavirus. It can be accessed here.

Asylum Intake Unit (AIU) screening interviews have been cancelled – The Home Office have cancelled some screening interviews and are working on a new system for asylum claims to be registered regionally without the need to physically attend the Asylum Intake Unit in Croydon. Further information on this can be found here.

Asylum decisions can now be served by email – The Home Office have set up a process whereby they will send an email to the legal representative (using the most recent email address they have on file) to verify that the email address  is correct, that the representative is happy to receive emails, the authority to act is current and that there are no reasons why serving the decision by email would not be appropriate. For more information, click here.

Postal applications for refugee integration loans are no longer being accepted – however can be accepted via email. Guidance on applying for the loan can be found here and details of how to apply can be found here.

EU Settlement Scheme

The Home Office’s EU Settlement Resolution Centre telephone lines are currently closed in the light of the coronavirus outbreak, however the Home Office can be contacted via online email enquiry form. The Settlement Resolution Centre is providing an automated message to state that they will open the line again once they are able to do this safely.  Many ID scanning services have also been suspended, so it is advised to contact the service before attending by clicking here.

Many organisations supporting people to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme have had to cancel their face-to-face outreach activities, but many organisations are still providing advice via phone or email. To find an organisation near you, click here.

Refugee Settlement Scheme

Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme – IOM and UNHCR announce temporary suspension of resettlement travel for refugees. As countries drastically reduce entry into their territories owing to the COVID-19 global health crisis, and restrictions around international air travel are introduced, travel arrangements for resettling refugees are currently subject to severe disruptions. For more information, you can find the announcement here.

 

In light of the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday (23 March) and the ongoing global situation, resettlement arrivals will be further postponed until 20th April. We will be in touch with the affected Local Authorities/community sponsors on an individual basis to confirm this. We continue to keep the situation under review and will resume arrivals as soon as we are able to.

NRPF

The NRPF Network have provided a factsheet for councils on supporting people with no recourse to public funds during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which includes details on support for people with NRPF from homelessness services to social services’ support, rights and entitlements of people with NRPF, as well as Home Office support and updates on changes to the process. This can be accessed here.

 The NRPF Network have a section on their website on their update for NRPF services. Click here to access their current update.

Other RAS Information

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children – Letter to Directors of Children’s Services regarding local authorities’ duties towards unaccompanied asylum seeking children can be downloaded here .

Added 30.04.20 Fact sheet on information in relation to UASC transfers – The UK Government have provided a fact sheet in relation to transfers of UASC into the UK. This includes their key points, background information and figures. This can be accessed here.

Government launches Coronavirus Information Service – The GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service is an automated ‘chatbot’ service which will allow the British public to get answers to the most common questions about coronavirus direct from government. To access to the full report, click here.

Visas extended for those currently unable to return home due to COVID-19  – The extension was announced on 24th March by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, that will apply to anyone whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation. This will last until 31 May but will be kept under regular review in case further extensions are needed. A COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within UKVI to make the process as straightforward as possible. For more information or to for details of how to contact, please click here.

Legal Aid Agency contingency response  Advice for legal aid providers setting has been set out what the Legal Aid Agency is putting in place to help them continue to provide service for their clients during COVID-19.The whole report can be found here.

UKVI Reporting and Offender Management (ROM) Team have now confirmed reporting frequencies for reportees in light of the COVID-19 developing situation.  The decision taken is that they will initially suspend reporting for all reportees and an SMS message will be sent out to reportees shortly advising them of this – see below in bold. The agreement is that reporting will be suspended for Non FNO’s for 3 months.  For FNO’s, they will all be moved to monthly reporting. They will then, via SMS, inform reportees of the change to their reporting and when they should next report.

Free school meals for those on S.4 support and NPRF – the Secretary of State agreed to extend free school meal entitlement temporarily during the current crisis to children who are of families that either: receive s4 support, zambrano carers and have NRPF. Click here for the guidance on free school meals.

ESOL Resources

NEMP have pulled together a list of ESOL resources to utilise while mainstream provision is unavailable. NEMP’s list of resources, includes websites, mobile apps, and videos.

Download Here

Health and Vulnerability

£2.9 billion funding to strengthen care for the vulnerable – £1.6 billion will go to local authorities to help them respond to other coronavirus (COVID-19) pressures across all the services they deliver. This includes increasing support for the adult social care workforce and for services helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people. For more information, click here.

DfE and PHE guidance on isolation for different settings, including children’s homeshttps://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-isolation-for-residential-educational-settings/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-isolation-for-residential-educational-settings

PHE guidance on COVID-19 for residential settingshttps://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-residential-care-supported-living-and-home-care-guidance/covid-19-guidance-on-residential-care-provision

Vulnerable Refugees and Asylum Seekers – Register with NHS

You will have seen recent media coverage of the NHS’ plans to write to 1.5m people currently identified as vulnerable to the worst effects of the COVID-19 virus. https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable

The link allows for extremely vulnerable people to be registered with the NHS. As the link details Refugees and Asylum Seekers can register themselves or others can register on their behalf, which obviously includes LA colleagues and those within the NGO / VCS sectors as well obviously as AASC providers.

Those asylum seekers who might be in scope of this include:

  1. Solid organ transplant recipients
  2. People with specific cancers
    • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  3. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  4. People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  6. People who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

Mental Health Resources

The NEMP has developed and verified a range of useful resources for asylum seekers and refugees to address mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic. This is available to download HERE

Voluntary and Community Sector Service Provision

Drop in and service mapping – NEMP have collated a list of Voluntary and Community Sector Services opening times and availability during COVID-19, due to social distancing measures and avoiding unnecessary travel most drop ins and services are closed for face to face support. Please view the document to see details.(updated as at 02/04)

Download Here.

 

 

RAS VCS organisation handbook – The Good Practice and Partnerships team at Refugee Action have developed the incredibly useful Coronavirus Asylum Handbook which brings together frontline organisations’ approaches and strategies (both immediate and longer term) to deliver support in the current context. A great resource for sharing good practice and finding out how others are tackling the barriers.

DWP Guidance

DWP National Insurance number interviews

As a precautionary measure to protect people from unnecessary risk of exposure of coronavirus, National Insurance Number interviews are not currently taking place for 3 months effective from 17/03/2020.

We are making efforts to contact all our customers to advise them not to attend our offices.

We apologise for the inconvenience this causes, however we can confirm that individuals do not need a National Insurance Number to apply for benefits or a job. Individuals can start work without a National Insurance Number as long as they have the right to work in the UK and employers have information to allow them to do this.

For further information around DWP Services during this current crisis please access the Coronavirus and claiming Benefits section on our Understanding Universal Credit website. The site is being updated regularly to provide the latest updates to customers and partners.