Bishop Paul McAleenan has called on the government and Catholic community to ensure that vulnerable migrants and refugees are not overlooked in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
“In supporting the Government’s recommendations to curtail the spread of COVID-19 the Church keeps in mind migrants and refugees. We must never forget that they are included among the vulnerable.
Staying at home will lower one’s chances of infection. Therefore the requirement placed on some migrants and refugees to report at immigration centres or police stations should be suspended and those held in detention centres while their cases are explored should be released.
Nor should we forget at this time casual workers and those who rely on frequent income to keep their accommodation. They must be included in supportive economic packages to prevent destitution and homelessness.
Catholic charities are doing all they can to provide support for migrants, refugees and others in need in the present crisis. Through prayer and through contributions to these charities the Catholic community and all people of goodwill can offer help to those who need it. We are encouraged to protect ourselves and others.
I ask those who, through policy and through charity can make a difference to the lives of others, not to neglect the well-being of migrants and refugees when thinking about COVID-19.”
Cecilia Taylor-Camara, Senior Advisor for Migration and Refugee Policy at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference added:
“We are particularly concerned about the lack of emergency accommodation for people to self-isolate and socially distance themselves. Many undocumented migrants and people who have been refused asylum have nowhere to go, leaving them at extraordinary risk and undermining efforts to prevent transmission. Those same people will also struggle to access healthcare and may be unclear about whether they can seek help from the NHS.
At the same time it is important not to forget refugees in other parts of the world, many who are facing this crisis in overcrowded conditions with little access to healthcare at all.”