We at The Racial Justice Network are deeply concerned about three aspects of the UK governments’ response in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic:
1. The unjustifiable danger to the lives of up to 2,000 people in immigration detention
We support the letter from 10 organisations led by Bail for Immigration Detainees, in calling for the immediate release of all people detained by the Home Office in order to curb the serious health risk to those being held for administrative reasons which, while never justified, are entirely redundant at a time when deportation flights are grounded.
2. The threat to freedom from emergency police powers
Emergency police powers being rushed through parliament this month – but potentially applicable for years – will enable officers to detain anyone under the justification of their suspected potential infection risk. Returning the police to a border force role is a serious threat to the liberty of UK citizens, particularly when viewed in the context of the growing use of police biometrics with racist Stop and Search practices. We note that MP Layla Moran shares this concern, stating “I worry that these new detention powers will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society, including the homeless.
3. The risk to public health posed by the Hostile Environment
As Liberty, Medact, JCWI and others have pointed out, the Hostile Environment, prevents migrants from accessing healthcare, making them acutely vulnerable to the Coronavirus. We echo those groups’ calls to end all data sharing between the NHS and the Home Office and the NHS charges which form a barrier for accessing screening and treatment.
We stand in solidarity with everyone being placed in danger by these issues and urge the government to take fast, responsible action.