by Loraine Mponela
I will start by quoting Dr Martin Luther King who said: “Freedom...must be fought for, protected, and handed on for [our children] to do the same.” - Because of our prior knowledge and experience of what it’s like trying to live in the UK without status we knew, as soon as the COVID19 lock down was announced in mid March, that people without Status were going to be, immediately, at a very significant disadvantage for lots of reasons including:
• Having barely enough money to eat, never mind make ourselves or keep ourselves healthy and therefore less likely to become sick • Being without a home or living in very overcrowded accommodation and therefore not being able to self-isolate if one of us gets sick, or protect ourselves if someone else where we live with gets sick • Not being able to access a doctor or a hospital in case we get reported because of our status and then detained or deported • Working a job that’s under the radar and therefore doesn’t offer any protection whatsoever in terms of a wage or being furloughed during lockdown, or basic health and safety. Knowing this, the only way that we could see for us to protect ourselves, each other, and everyone around us was to offer a way for the State to communicate with us - undocumented people and our networks of allies – directly. We put out the call for Status Now, we wrote ( https://statusnow4all.org/about-status-now/ ) the Prime Minister of the UK and of the Republic of Ireland because we understood that we too are an essential part of creating a public health response to COVID-19 that actually does everything necessary to both stop people becoming infected with the virus and stop people from passing it on. On March 27th of this year we sent the Open Letter and petition ( http://chng.it/gsvXHrHwGp ) a combination of people without status and our allies. Prior to this time, we have always been in the shadows, never really talked about or acknowledged as existing in this society, living lives in the shadows without any real rights and open to being exploited and oppressed because of not having those rights. When we created this call for Status Now we understood that we have to be visible in a way that makes it possible for us to be a part of the creating the future solution: How this land is going to move forward in ways that make it possible for every member of its population to be healthy and safe and able to look after each other? In future, we want this network to develop with direct and increasing participation, shaping and decision making by people with lived experience of what it’s like to live in the UK without status, alongside people with that status. We want this network to continue to grow, sustainably, describing and explaining why it is in the interests of everyone who is currently living in the UK for those of us without status to have equal access to healthcare, housing and food. So who are we? "Many of us are qualified to work in essential services and many of us can and do work. As we have heard already during this launch, several of us have died already during this pandemic, working as carers for others or too frightened to seek the medical help that we needed for fear of being imprisoned or deported. Many of us are commonwealth citizens and are here directly because of the UK's foreign policy, both in the past and up to the present day, because people do, and continue to come to the UK: some for asylum, some to be with family, some seeking a life without the war and famine and environmental destruction that has happened in their own lands at the hands of aggressive invaders or multinational corporations. People have moved here to survive. And what's wrong with that? I myself am here, denied the right to work legally but helping others all the time throughout this Covid crisis, supporting people and offering information, advice and food as a part of the networks within my community here in Coventry and the West Midlands. I know that I am part of the solution alongside everyone else who is here today to be a part of this launch. If you are undocumented or you know of people who are, please join us, connect up to the network. Please get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org Visit our Website: ( www.statusnow4all.org ) We ask that everybody here continues to reach out to their own networks to grow the support that we need and to approach their MP’s to join the Early Day Motion ( https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/57173/leave-to-remain-status ) call for Status Now We hope to carry on organising together and make it possible for people to connect up with one another, safely, inside the regions where they are, so please get in touch to be a part of that future with us and to make that future one that is worth living for all of us. This is the beginning of a Network that will only end when we have Status Now for ALL. Hopefully-that will come soon but, for however long it takes, we will work together to make it happen and we will never give up. One of the fundamental public health and social Truth to remember - which many speakers have echoed today is: to be safe and well, we all need each other.
Many of my brothers and sisters who are British tell me one thing :“We not only want people like u… we need people like you.” Thank you to people that are carrying the burden of supporting those of us who do not have any rights to work or benefit. I started with a quote and will end with one by Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Thank you. Check out our launch meeting. Status Now 4 All Launch