Response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland:
Are a peer support group for LGBT+ refugees, asylum seekers and migrants based in Glasgow.
LGBT Unity have been very active over the past few months keeping in contact with service users as well as offering support such as Food bags, Clothing and other home items. One of the key areas the group focus on are migrants currently on Section 4 or Section 98 status, which allows for the provision of support to refused asylum-seekers, who receive £35.39 via a pre-loaded card. During Covid – 19 a number of shops who accept these cards have been closed, so this has added pressure on the organisation to try and support these individuals.
Over the past five months the organisations have used their online platform to promote the extra services they are delivering. These include workshops, online videos and information posts.
Who is your target audience?
175+ people – LGBTQI+ refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. People that are destitute, failed asylum (people who have failed to be granted asylum)
Section 4 and Section 98 (Appendix C) – they do not get any support from the government. Individuals receive limited support from charitable individuals and organisations – ad hoc – not sustainable
International users persecuted for their LGBTQI identity – often people facing death penalties
We also support each other with things like food banks, visits and peer support.
Did you supply any extra services during Covid-19? If so, what were they and how well do you think these have gone so far?
Yes – we keep on calling people to ask their conditions.
They were locked in so couldn’t share information. If calls not answered we did home visits – depending on what we found, we would supply food, data/top up, if we have it.
We created a food bank.
Also Zoom meetings, to check in on people and coordinate additional support – practical and emotional.
On Saturday 23/08/20 a group member died leaving a 1 year old baby suffering from malnourishment, we had to buy clothes, shoes, nappies, towels, soap, food and deliver it to the hospital. We also contacted the child’s father.
Supporting people with HC2 certificates – entitlement to full support with health costs. You need this to receive medical treatment, eye test, prescriptions, dental treatment and glasses (Appendix C).
Giving out PPE, hand sanitiser, masks (all donated from Pink Saltire)
Easing of lockdown, we’ve tried to provide travelling expenses to come into Glasgow for meetings
Considering what we have, we did incredibly well! If we had reliable funding, not just the odd bit of assistance here and there we could have done much better – we could have prevented the death this weekend – we had food to offer but nobody to deliver it – gap in the service – we wish we knew how to apply for funding.
We wish we had support to help our service users/women with children – specialised child support – practical and emotional – lockdown highlighted this to us
The need is endless due to our service users not having the means to support themselves – migrants who can work can’t claim benefits, so lockdown hit them especially hard, they were left with no way to support themselves
Was it the target audience that used the services? If so, who were they?
Yes – LGBTQI+ asylum seekers, refugees and failed asylum seekers – those on sections so they cannot support themselves
Those also outside of Glasgow – we provide support for accessibility.
LGBTQI+ failed asylum seekers, those seeking asylum and migrants.
As well as delivering your extra services were you contacted by any other LGBT+ service providers, organisations or groups to offer LGBT Unity support or partnership working during this time? e.g volunteer support, supplies, donations, social media support e.g promotion of your services to reach wider LGBT+ ethnic minorities, refugees and migrants.
Arika (Organisation, Political Arts)
LGBT Health and Wellbeing, but nothing came of it, we did not receive anything – they received funding but created a position for an asylum-seeker in house, caused a lot of division within our group. Nothing during the pandemic, we asked for £5000, £3000 for food and £2000 for phone top ups, they said they do not provide this sort of support. LGBT Health and Wellbeing have paid for our venue – but there has been no face to face meetings for months now.
Pink Saltire – helped with COVID-19 aid; PPE, hand sanitiser, and provided support with supermarket/food vouchers, mobile phone top ups/credit and some equipment.
If we were to have a second wave of COVID-19 what do you think would be needed for your organisation?
Everything, we would like support for funding application so we can offer extra services to meet the changing needs of our service users.
Help for healthcare – Section 98 = even under pandemic circumstances we will not receive care.
It’s also all on Ebrima and Solomon’s shoulders – extra support to carry the load
Service users on section 98 = zero support, we must provide it all.
Service users on Section 4 = a prepaid card you can use at specific shops/no cash/no phone top ups/can’t buy what you want or know. Loaded with £35 pound per week – extra weekly topup if you are pregnant £2 or have a baby £3 – we have to try to cover what people cannot afford.
Migrants that can work but can’t claim benefits = we need to cover all their expenses.
If we were to have a second wave of COVID-19 what do you think would be needed for LGBT+ ethnic minorities, refugees and migrants in Scotland?
Everything! Accommodation, healthcare, food – extra food costs, buying what people know costs extra in British shops as it’s ‘speciality foods’ – clothing, phones, top-ups, devices that support Zoom.
PPE and hand-gel to hand out to our service users.
Travel, bus passes, taxi cards – so we can deliver aid.
Food, we need a lot of food as most of our service users live in food poverty.
Help and support from the community, accepted in Scotland’s LGBTQI+ community, we get forgotten or used for good PR – people say they will help so they get an article in the press then no help arrives – we don’t want to be taken advantage of again.
Support with additional information, supporting documentation and supporting letters for the Home Office – everything shut during lockdown, so nobody had access.
Do you feel like LGBT+ ethnic minorities, refugees and migrants have been supported by other government services such as housing, healthcare, asylum support or benefits?
Under section 4 & 98 – see appendix C – this is the only support they receive.
Migrants who are allowed to work do not get support from the Government, they can’t apply for housing, benefits etc but have no rights to social security system – while paying a much higher rate of tax than everyone else. Even If they have dependants, such as children, they will not receive support themselves.
Specialist food and religious practices are not respected.
The process is traumatic, the system is traumatic, and most asylum seekers have a traumatic past. Most of our group members need psychological support for past trauma. The process of seeking asylum causes really emotional and physical damage – the impact on young children, relationship and mental health are extreme.