Ethnic Minorities are Disproportionately Dying in the Pandemic. The UK Home Office Must Take Some Blame.

There are many people in the UK whose daily lives have been systematically ruined by cruel visa decisions and inhumane policies of the Home Office and the virus is just taking advantage of the vulnerabilities perpetuated by the state, writes Cryton Chikoko.

The coronavirus has exposed the inequality and unfairness in our society in a very brutal fashion. The latest Office for National Statistics figures show that the disproportionate rate of COVID-19 related deaths among ethnic minorities are even worse than we were initially informed. Black people, like me, are more than four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people. The Home Office is very much complicit in many of these deaths. Its immigration policies create generational poverty among ethnic minorities who are to settle in the UK.  

There are several factors that lead to extreme poverty among ethnic minorities. But many families I know, including mine, point fingers firmly at the UK Home Office’s hostile policies against migrants. They contribute massively to entrenching many ethnic minority families and communities into generational poverty because of the inequalities they create. And the coronavirus is just taking advantage of the vulnerabilities perpetuated by the state.  

Senior Nurse Larni Zuniga died just after raising enough money to bring his wife to the UK // Photo source: gofundme

Take the example of Senior Nurse Larni Zuniga who was treated in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in London at the same time as Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He came to the UK 12 years ago. Zuniga worked at Surrey Hills care home. He had not seen his wife for five years and had finally saved enough for her to come from the Philippines and live in the UK this July only for his life to be taken away by COVID-19 on 24th April. “Saved enough” means many years of toiling to raise huge sums of money to meet the Home Office excessively high citizenship and visa fees for his family. In essence, the state snatches away many migrants’ wages condemning them to poverty with many agonising years of uncertainties. When the virus comes, it finds you at your most vulnerable. 

I followed my wife to the UK in 2005. She came a year earlier than me. We were both focussed on improving ourselves through studies. By 2011, I had three master’s degrees, and strong personal and family ties to the UK. In 2014, after 10 years of continuous lawful residence, my wife applied for indefinite leave to remain with me as a spouse. It was envisioned that a year later my wife would naturalise as a British citizen and we both embark on our respective career ambitions, only for our Home Office application to be turned down on flimsy technical reasons and told to leave the country. 

Five years later, after a prolonged legal battle with the Home Office and further submissions, we were granted very restrictive immigration status that leaves us with diminished employment rights. Most employers are hesitant to give you a job in fear of the Home Office penalties next time your visa expires. You are therefore left to be employed in the precarious gig economy. During COVID-19, these are the sort of jobs that sent many migrants into extreme poverty the moment the economy shut down.

After being granted leave to remain in June 2019, my first job interview was with Migrant Help. It is a charity funded by the Home Office. I had a computer-based written examination before the oral interview. At the oral interview, I was first heartily congratulated for passing the written part of the interview.

I could sense the great excitement from my two assessors as the interview progressed. They got their man! At the end of it all came the decisive question: “What sort of visa are you on?” “I am on a 10-year route to settlement and currently on a two and half years discretionary leave to remain”.  The regional manager’s face dropped as she announced: “I am sorry the Home Office specifically says this post should only go to people with British citizenship”. That is after I had been in the country for over 14 years, contributing in taxes and many other ways but still, I was a victim of direct state discrimination.

The Home Office must take some blame // Photo credit: Rick Findler/PA Archive/PA Images

There are many people in the UK whose daily lives have been systematically ruined by cruel visa decisions and inhumane policies of the Home Office: some are on precarious visas like mine which often lead to low paid insecure unskilled jobs; most are no recourse to public funds migrants; others are homeless, undocumented migrants with no rights at all; families are separated; UK born migrants’ children are denied citizenship because of unaffordable fees; many innocent people are on Home Office meagre income support in crowded, unsanitary asylum accommodation and immigration detention centres; most are burdened with exorbitant visa fees and its accompanying NHS surcharge, and the rest are migrants with relatives and friends in such dire situations. These excessively harsh and severe immigration laws promote inequalities and create generational poverty within minority races. They are the breeding ground for exploitation, destitution and homelessness. And the virus has simply pounced on these comorbidities. The makings of the British government.   

Sadly, the Home Office refuses to lift a finger to ease the suffering of migrants even during the pandemic. It was all very well for Home Secretary Priti Patel to say that “everything is under review”. But in these unprecedented times, quick action weighs more than words. We should not help others only because we want to protect ourselves or for the services they do for us. Human beings have value in themselves. However, if we are all to be safe the virus ought to be fought from an equal footing, which means equal rights for all. Otherwise, we are risking a second wave of the coronavirus infections and this time, be warned, it may encroach into your rich suburbs. The day of reckoning is nearer than before.   

2 Comments

  1. It had been a journey when I was in the same situation as Lorraine
    No accommodation no money to buy sanitary towels food and just to look after my day back home
    The way of life was just something else
    What do you when you are refused status in this country

    Like

  2. The government must stop their descrimation policies. Treat everyone as equal and not be selective against black and ethnic minority. I support the campaign against racism more so the naked institutional racism by this Tory government.

    Like

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