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Stories From The Frontline: LGBTI Migrant Support During C-19

Stories From The Frontline: LGBTI Migrant Support During C-19

Stories From The Frontline: LGBTI Migrant Support During C-19

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sebastian Rocca, Founder and CEO of Micro Rainbow, recently spoke with the Frontline Network about the many significant challenges, as well as successful working practices, when supporting LGBTI migrants during C-19.

You can read his story below:

Micro Rainbow works with around 400 LGBTI migrants every year providing them with housing, social inclusion and moving on support. During normal times, the individuals we support often experience - or are at high risk of - homelessness. 

Many are living in domestic servitude or are engaged in other exploitative work in restaurants, building sites and other sectors. Their legal status can be uncertain or is being fought in the immigration courts, which may discourage some from accessing healthcare, or police support, for fear of repercussions on their legal cases.

Many can also be extremely isolated as their sexuality or gender identity or intersex status means they do not benefit from the support of co-nationals or family members.

At this critical time what we found is that LGBTI migrants are at high risk from COVID-19. Some might have limited access to cleaning and washing facilities, others live in overcrowded rooms, and many are sofa surfing - where the ability to social distance or isolate is close to non-existent.

In our work, we found the three top challenges are:

  • Homelessness: Since the COVID pandemic started and social distancing has become a necessity, many LGBTI migrants are being asked to leave their friends’ houses making them experience homelessness. Also, we know of several cases of people who, due to the confinement, could not tolerate the homophobic/transphobic abuse they were subjected to and had no choice but to experience homelessness at one of the most critical times in recent history. This exposes LGBTI migrants to a higher risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

  • Livelihoods: Many LGBTI migrants have jobs in the informal sector with no protection, and many have lost their livelihoods. We recently worked with a lesbian in domestic servitude who was asked to leave the family for fear of spreading the virus: she lost her job and experienced homelessness.

    Individuals in these situations often do not have savings and due to their status they are now experiencing food poverty. Many asylum seekers live on only £37 a week and cannot afford to stockpile or to order online and pay delivery fees. Having enough food or money for medicines has become a recurrent issue during COVID. Many are not able to benefit from the Government’s COVID support schemes for employees.

  • Isolation and lack of connectivity: LGBTI migrants already suffer from extreme isolation because of their legal status and the rejection they face by their ethnic communities in the UK. During this lockdown, many have been left alone, at risk of receiving no support. They cannot afford phone contracts and use pay as you go systems. They cannot go to the places where they usually access free WIFI because of COVID. They have become extremely isolated. Also, because they have no spare cash to top up their phones, they cannot search for the nearest shelter or food bank. Their lack of internet access means they have no possibility to find entertainment or be in contact with their lawyers and friends. In addition to the extreme isolation, there is now additional uncertainty around people’s legal cases leading to declining mental health, panic and desperation.

In response to these challenges Micro Rainbow has increased its capacity to over 16,000 bed-nights a year. We have digitised our popular social inclusion programme and thanks to the support of various funders, we are able to offer mobile data top-ups and WIFI. We have also secured funding to provide food parcels and emergency funds for LGBTI migrants at immediate risk of homelessness.

For more information about our work, please visit www.microrainbow.org.

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