Advice for UK Covid-19 Mutual Aid groups on Refugees & Asylum Seekers

**** NB This is a live document and a work in progress – please email Student Action for Refugees to add to or amend the document****

This was not written by Feminist Fightback. We are sharing it because it contains such crucial info.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

This is a very difficult and worrying time for everyone but even more so for certain groups in society. There are many things about the UK asylum system and life in the UK for refugees or people seeking asylum that could mean they are more at risk during this virus outbreak.

32,693 asylum applications were made in the UK in 2018-2019, and people are resettled across the UK. Many more are afraid to officially report and make an asylum claim. People seeking asylum are not allowed to work and have to live off around £5 a day. See more in our fact sheet here.

Refugees are often living in an unfamiliar environment, and will have a limited – or no – support network. They are more likely to have pre-existing health conditions and the impact of hostile environment policies means that many find it difficult to access healthcare. Social isolation is also a real issue, and asylum seekers are five times more likely to have mental health needs than the general population and more than 61% will experience serious mental distress (source).

Given the already serious difficulty many asylum seekers face negotiating day to day life prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, Mutual Aid groups should be aware of the specific problems facing these groups in their communities and ensure their support work takes into account the problems facing this potentially vulnerable group.

Mutual Aid groups for refugees and asylum seekers

There are a number of networks and mutual aid groups that have cropped up specifically for refugees and asylum seekers:

For the London group – please consider joining or invite someone to join this group if you/they are one of the following:

  • A migrant, an asylum seeker or an individual without immigration status who needs immediate support
  • An organisation that supports migrants and asylum seekers
  • An individual who is able to support asylum seekers in their local area
  • An individual with with language skills who is able to assist with translation
  • An existing regional mutual aid group looking to reach out to migrant groups

What can Mutual Aid groups offer?

Share translated information

If you don’t speak English getting the correct information about Covid-19 is very difficult. Without access to information the current situation is even more frightening and people will not know how to keep themselves and others safe. You can help by sharing this translated information.

The Big Leaf Foundation has translated versions of Coronavirus guidance in:

Doctors of the World, in partnership with the Red Cross, Migrant Help and Clear Voice, has provided guidance in (please check their Google Drive too):

Housing & Hosting

Housing is under greater strain during periods of self-isolation, especially in cases where people in homes with many occupants. NACCOM (the No Accommodation Network) have compiled guidance on specific housing and hosting projects, and Refugees at Home are able to help adult refugees and asylum seekers find short-term housing (note: they are closed for referrals in London until 6th April).


Migrants Organise and MedAct have shared a few essential resources regarding access to healthcare. The government has slowly introduced charges to migrants for using the NHS, however it should be noted that no one will be charged for treatment for suspected or confirmed coronavirus. Furthermore:

  • Everyone has the right to register with a GP and receive free ‘primary care’.
  • Treatment given in Accident and Emergency is free for everyone, as is diagnosis and treatment of infectious and sexually transmitted disease (eg TB, HIV) and family planning(contraception, but not abortions).
  • Refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to free hospital care, as are: victims of trafficking & slavery, those in need of treatment owing to torture, FGM, domestic or sexual violence.
  • Those being treated under the Mental Health Act, in detention, a child under the care of a local authority or an adult under the Care Act should not be charged for healthcare.


Consider supporting asylum seekers who are unable to afford to purchase large amounts of food for social distancing or self-isolation. Work with local food banks where possible to expand food support to asylum seekers in need of support.

Internet access is rarely provided in asylum accommodation, and laptops and computers are a luxury. Phone credit is also an additional expense at this time. Dongles, phone credit, and laptops could be of particular use at this time of isolation, so please consider collecting unwanted or underutilised technology.

Families or young refugees and asylum seekers in particular could benefit from the same kind of activities that others may use to pass the time, such as books and games.

Work with local support groups

You could check in with local refugee and migrant support organisations who are likely to have a good picture of who in the area might be in need of support. There is no national database of organisations working with refugees, but most organisations are just a quick Google search away. We would recommend checking the Refugee Council’s list of services.

Collect evidence

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration is calling for evidence as part of its Social Integration Inquiry into “What can we learn from the COVID-19 crisis about social connection with isolated groups?” The inquiry is asking individuals and organisations working with socially isolated groups to share challenges they have faced in supporting people who face these difficulties and how they have been overcome. More detail on the inquiry is here and written evidence should be sent to:

Take Action

The Joint Council on the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Liberty & Medact have convened a letter calling on the Home Secretary to ensure the safety of migrants. You can sign here.

Protection, including reporting Hate Crime

As it is likely that we will see a spike in online abuse and racism, remember to call out racism online and offline – report any discriminatory or racist posts you see to the platform’s hosts and counter it by sharing positive stories of people seeking refuge. Stop Hate UK are providing anyone experiencing or witnessing such discrimination with a confidential 24-hour third-party reporting service. To receive Hate Crime reporting information in other languages, please email, and If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other Hate Crime issue, please contact

You can report hate crime here.