As with many other communities, the pandemic has not only brought up new and evolving challenges for Latin Americans, but it has also exacerbated pre-existing inequalities affecting this community, such as over-representation in precarious and low-paid jobs, and lack of access to welfare support, services and social housing, among others. Latin American migrants are overrepresented in unregulated sectors of employment such as cleaning, in which many are experiencing exploitation and being forced to work – often without PPE and, at times, in spite of their need to self-isolate – or being dismissed. This submission highlights that:
- Many Latin Americans working in the sectors of cleaning, hospitality and domestic work not have received contractual sick pay or Statutory Sick Pay when needing to self-isolate or shield during COVID-19.
- A high number of Latin American workers were forced to continue working under unsafe conditions, and have been routinely denied personal protective equipment, exposing themselves to the risk of becoming ill and facing loss of income.
- Workers in the cleaning sector are having to work extra hours to cover for colleagues who were ill or on furlough, without being paid for those hours, while many others have been dismissed or had their hours cut.
- Latin American women have been gravely affected by childcare responsibilities, as school closures have meant that many were unable to return to work. This is especially concerning in the cases of women who have no access to further support through the government schemes or through Universal Credit (e.g. those with No Recourse to Public Funds).
- Both the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-employment Support Scheme have had limited reach within the Latin American community.
- The NRPF condition has left those who have lost their income with no options and at risk of destitution.
- Many of our beneficiaries have been faced with increased risk of homelessness and are presenting a variety of problems linked to poor housing, including: attempts of eviction, falling into debt to pay rent, and facing increased risk of infection due to over-crowdedness.
- Migrant women victims of domestic violence/abuse who have NRPF find it virtually impossible to access refuge and financial support, as well as access to interpreters when contacting local authorities or statutory services. Our two VAWG specialist organisations, LAWRS and LAWA, are seeing many women stay/return to their perpetrators for lack of options.
- Access to reliable, official information and local guidance in the Latin American languages (Spanish and Portuguese) has been difficult, particularly for those lacking access to the Internet and to IT equipment. As a result, Latin Americans face constant uncertainty about government guidelines, health and safety, social distancing and new rules to reopen businesses.
- Many families contracted coronavirus, and many elderly members having to be hospitalised. Language barriers made it impossible for some to access information on COVID-19 symptoms, hygiene measures, how to request NHS support and testing, despite continuous efforts from CLAUK members to disseminate translated materials. Service users have reported feeling worried and anxious about their health and the health of their families and about their children’s isolation and lack of school support.
- The closure of the EU Settlement Resolution Centre during the first two months of the pandemic made it impossible for organisations and individuals to advance with complex applications to the EU Settlement Scheme. Restrictions imposed in applying for Family Permits from abroad, as well as travel restrictions in other countries, have meant that family members have been unable to join their families in the UK. Travel restrictions have also affected people with pre-settled status who were unable to return to the UK and therefore risked running over the 6-months absence limit.
Full response available here.