Rights and Civic Engagement
According to one of the only sources of information on Latin Americans in the UK, the report Towards Visibility (McIlwaine & Bunge, 2016) shows that most UK Latin Americans have the right to vote in local and London elections, given that at least 53% have either UK or EU nationality. However, despite having an opportunity to participate in the democratic and electoral processes of the UK, many Latin Americans are not aware of this right or are disenfranchised due to language barriers and other forms of socioeconomic deprivation.
Moreover, in spite of low incomes, Latin Americans’ take-up of public services and state benefits has been deemed low, with one in five reported to have never seen a General Practitioner (GP) or sought any medical attention in the UK and only 20% saying they had received some form of state welfare benefit (No Longer Invisible, 2011). This is indicative of the lack of information available to migrants and how it can affect their ability to know and exercise their rights across multiple areas of public life.
Access to healthcare
Recently, a report on the impact of Covid-19 on Latin Americans produced by one of CLAUK’s organisations, IRMO, found that a stark 1 in 7 Latin Americans were not registered with a GP, excluding them from accessing basic health services and invisible to priorities of the National Health Service (NHS) and Public Health England (now the UK Health Security Agency). Coming from non-English speaking countries, the lack of translation and interpreting services is an important problem working against the efficiency of South London health services.
Having no help with dealing with the language barrier often lead Latin American people to:
For those who can’t speak English fluently, it is indispensable to find information in their language and be able to access interpreting services when attending appointments. If non-English speaking patients are unable to find translators, they end up missing or rescheduling their appointments. This situation often leads to physical and mental health deterioration and further use of NHS resources. CLAUK advocates for the improvement of Latin Americans’ access to health services.
Having worked to increase civic engagement through voter registration campaigns and hustings during all local and national elections since 2012, CLAUK understands that voting is not only a right that we should be able to exercise but also a means through which we can voice our concerns, support policies that represent our interests and empower ourselves.
In doing so, the Coalition has mobilised public information to increase levels of civic engagement among the Latin American community, developing its own resources in community languages, in order to ensure full accessibility of information and a wider impact of outreach. Throughout, the Coalition has engaged with electoral themes from an apolitical and non-partisan standpoint, focusing on the benefits of democratic participation especially for our underrepresented and under registered communities.
Some examples of our past civic engagement activities and campaigns are shown below:
Voter ID and the Elections Act 2022
Partnering with the Greater London Authority, we created an awareness campaign with key information about the changes introduced by the Elections Act, and the challenges for the Latin American community in light of the impact to democratic rights.
London Voter Registration Week 2022 campaign
Promoting prepared materials from the Greater London Authority, translating assets into community languages as required, and spreading the word across each of our members’ organisations on the ways to register and the benefits of democratic participation.
Local elections 2021
We organised online workshops in Spanish and Portuguese on the Mayor and London Assembly elections, where we provided instructions on how to register to Vote, particularly targeting Latin Americans with EU passports
Brexit awareness campaign in 2020
CLAUK organised in-person workshops focused on information about rights after Brexit, European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) applications, and voter registration
London Elections 2014 and 2015
organising local debates and hustings with candidates from all parties.