Asylum seekers confused by Covid guidelines

Story and photo by Victor Mujakachi

Speaking to a number of asylum seekers about their experiences this year, one man said:

“When lockdown came into effect, my wife and children stayed at home. I was doing my best to home-school them. We did not get much information from the government or the council about coronavirus. We supplemented our supplies by getting food from the Burngreave Foodbank run by the Rock Christian Church. I can understand English, fortunately. Some people from my country struggle to understand because they cannot speak or read English.”

The same sentiments were also expressed by another:

“I wish we had been given information about Covid-19 in our own language. I can speak English but my parents cannot. I have to interpret for them what I read and hear from the news.”

Many asylum seekers living in Burngreave did not know where to go if they felt flu-like symptoms. The booking system adds to the problems. One man, who has no broadband in his shared accommodation, said:

“It’s all very well being advised to go online to make a booking but it depends on having an internet connection. Asylum-seekers are given a weekly subsistence of £37 per person for food, travel and emergencies. If polling stations can be placed within the vicinity of homes, why can’t the same be done with testing sites?”

One asylum-seeker said he stopped going to the mosque for prayers during lockdown and now goes to the Grand Mosque on Petre Street where he’s happy because the mosque has made the place Covid-secure. Asylum seekers need more information in their respective languages. It’s not always easy to understand Covid rules and it is even more difficult for speakers of other languages.

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