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Ensuring Legal Protection and Access to Justice for all Survivors During Covid-19

Jennifer Blair

Experts acknowledge that the Coronavirus crisis is very likely to continue in waves for at least the next year due to factors including the slow development of herd immunity, resurgence of the virus when isolation techniques are lifted and possible seasonal variation. The asylum system is simply unable to proceed with cases in a way that would administer justice or protect people seeking asylum effectively within the restrictions being imposed and face a significant backlog.  Furthermore, the risks for survivors – which are a serious concern at any time – are compounded by the Covid-19 public health crisis, which means that they are particularly vulnerable. Isolation, poverty and poor housing conditions, underlying health conditions, lack of access to appropriate care and essential services and experiences of marginalisation all contribute to survivors being unable to manage this crisis and to defend themselves effectively against Covid-19.

We are therefore working to ensure that the asylum system adapts to the current crisis appropriately and that survivors are still able to obtain Legal Protection and to Access Justice during this challenging time:

  • We have worked with others to highlight the risks of reporting during this period and concerns about vulnerable people reporting. We wrote a joint letter, with Migrants Organise, to the Secretary of State for the Home Office here. The Home Office responded, confirming a pause on immigration reporting. In anticipation of the lockdown lifting, we have written again to request a staged approach to resuming reporting conditions, and to take this time to review the way reporting conditions have been working.
  • We have led a collaboration with Freedom from Torture to ensure that the right to a fair trial and standards of fairness are maintained for survivors of trafficking and torture during this period by making a joint submission to the courts on the safeguarding and protection measures required to undertake remote casework and/or hearings. 
  • We have provided information and advice to the Mayor of London regarding the question as to whether there are specific challenges regarding self-isolation for our clients.
  • We have submitted evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on those with protected characteristics.