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Exclusive: Child asylum seekers left 'completely isolated' during lockdown

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Exclusive: Child asylum seekers left 'completely isolated' during lockdown

A lack of internet access has left child asylum seekers “completely isolated” and unable to access learning resources during lockdown, refugee support services have warned.

While some schools have provided children with devices such as tablets during lockdown, Holyrood understands that at least 60 families awaiting asylum applications across Scotland are unable to access the internet, leaving vulnerable children unable to engage with resources.

With people seeking asylum forced to live on around £35 per week each, many families are unable to afford either wifi or mobile data.

In one case a single mother of five children, who are too young to be left alone, is stuck in lockdown without any devices or internet. 

Anissa Thabet, family keywork adviser at the Scottish Refugee Council, told Holyrood: “Children are expected to continue learning in their homes at the moment, but if the family cannot the devices or the internet required to do that, it is impossible.

“There are lots of kids who have been sent home with nothing. Those who have been given tablets still face problems if their parents do not have internet, and the vast majority will not. A few have it, but the vast majority do not, so even those with a tablet cannot do the work.

“All the kids are at home with their parents at the moment, but these are people on the edge of destitution. They don’t have [extended] family or support networks, so their whole universe is in the house. If they can’t connect with the schools because of a lack of internet, they lose not just a basic right to education, but also become completely disconnected from the outside world. They have been left completely isolated.”

A group of homelessness, refugee support and human rights charities last month came together to call for urgent government action to help people experiencing destitution in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, over 60 charities, including the Scottish Refugee Council, Crisis, Refugee Action and Freedom from Torture, urged the government to suspend all evictions from Home Office asylum support accommodation, alongside action to ensure everyone can safely self-isolate, regardless of immigration status.

The charities called for an end to NHS charges, while the letter also urges Boris Johnson to take action to remove the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) conditions for all migrants, so they can access Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay where needed.

They said anyone applying for section 95, section 4 or schedule 10 support through the Home Office should be automatically accommodated while applications are being processed and that any decisions to reject applications should not be actioned until after the current health emergency has passed.

The groups called for any introduction of a Universal Basic Income or Universal Self-Isolation Pay to include everyone, including those with NRPF.

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