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Bishop calls to protect migrants amid coronavirus

by Heather Preston

Bishop Paul McAleenan has called for the government and the Catholic community to consider migrants and refugees during the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as more migrants have attempted to cross the English Channel, despite Britain being in lockdown.

Fourteen people, including two children were discovered in a boat off the French coast on Wednesday morning. 
Last week, more than 100 migrants tried to make the crossing to the UK.

The Rt Rev McAleenan, Auxiliary Bishop for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster says more needs to be done to ensure migrants are protected from the virus. He said the government's self-isolation measures are in conflict with the country's immigration policies.

Currently, migrants and refugees may be required to attend immigration centres or police stations while others are held in detention centres.

Bishop Paul is urging such policies to be suspended during the Covid-19 outbreak, to ensure those most vulnerable to infection are protected.

"In supporting the Government's recommendations to curtail the spread of COVID-19 the Church keeps in mind migrants and refugees.  We must never forget that they are included among the vulnerable," he said.

"Staying at home will lower one's chances of infection. Therefore, the requirement placed on some migrants and refugees to report at immigration centres or police stations should be suspended and those held in detention centres while their cases are explored should be released."

McAleenan added that those working on a casual basis must also be included in supportive financial packages "to prevent destitution and homelessness".

"I ask those who through policy and through charity can make a difference to the lives of others, not to neglect the well-being of migrants and refugees when thinking about Covid-19."

Concerns over the lack of means for migrants to self-isolate has also been highlighted by the Catholic Bishops' Conference.
Cecilia Taylor-Camara, Senior Advisor for Migration and Refugee Policy said: "We are particularly concerned about the lack of emergency accommodation for people to self-isolate and socially distance themselves. 

"Many undocumented migrants and people who have been refused asylum have nowhere to go, leaving them at extraordinary risk and undermining efforts to prevent transmission. 

"Those same people will also struggle to access healthcare and may be unclear about whether they can seek help from the NHS."

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