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The “Forced migration, SGBV and COVID-19” research project was initiated in response to conversations with Refugee Women Connect and anecdotal information suggesting that forced migrant survivors’ suffering increased in the COVID-19 crisis. We interviewed 97 survivors and organisations in five countries, 33 of which were in the UK. This policy brief focuses on the UK findings.

  • The COVID-19 crisis exacerbated the suffering of the most vulnerable groups of forced migrants – the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), with women worst affected.
  • Forced migrant survivors with irregular immigration status and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) were excluded from healthcare, emergency accommodation and practical support, increasing their exposure to violence.
  • Loss of income increased food and hygiene insecurity, and vulnerability to violence and exploitation, whilst social isolation undermined survivors’ mental health and wellbeing.
  • In the light of these findings, we urge policymakers to consider the following recommendations:
    • Ensure forced migrant survivors of SGBV have the resources required to stay safe and meet their basic needs by increasing asylum support payments by £20 per week, in line with universal credit, and urgently ensure Wi-Fi is available in all asylum accommodation.
    • Revoke NRPF to forced migrant survivors of violence in need of protection regardless of their legal status and give them access to social welfare and domestic violence refuges.
    • Cease the reporting of immigration status in healthcare and other public services to reduce the public health and personal risks.
    • Prioritise safety for survivors regardless of their legal status by increasing funds for NGOs.
  • Ensure forced migrant survivors of SGBV have the resources required to stay safe and meet their basic needs by increasing asylum support payments by £20 per week, in line with universal credit, and urgently ensure Wi-Fi is available in all asylum accommodation.
  • Revoke NRPF to forced migrant survivors of violence in need of protection regardless of their legal status and give them access to social welfare and domestic violence refuges.
  • Cease the reporting of immigration status in healthcare and other public services to reduce the public health and personal risks.
  • Prioritise safety for survivors regardless of their legal status by increasing funds for NGOs.

Download the full briefing