Covid-19 is playing havoc with lives around the world. In the UK, everyone is urged to stay at home, and many of us are now suddenly confined to spaces that we call home. For KRAN’s young people, home is a bedsit, a flat share or with a foster care family. Isolation is something that our young people know about in their normal lives, for they are anyway disconnected from family, friends and social networks. KRAN’s services that support them are currently mostly in suspension. We and other support groups do provide remote services, but the loss of social interaction means that we cannot do much. Isolation is hard for those whose main social support comes from groups like KRAN and who are very much alone.
Each young refugee is in the middle of a personal life challenge. Alone, they must secure the legal right to remain, find a safe living environment and then find the pathway to earning and independence. Their legal rights are fundamental and basic to everything that they do and every support that they access. Government function is now all focused on Covid-19 and the processing of asylum applications falls way down the list of priorities. There are now delays that, while understandable from one angle, are terrifying from the perspective of young people who face real consequences. Some of our young people show serious signs of stress with ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and changes, and for them this is dangerous uncertainty.
Young refugees anyway face considerable health challenges and must take the threat of Covid-19 seriously. Yet they are disconnected from the mainstream through language barriers, inexperience and plain culture-shock. Many now face this pandemic alone. For those who receive nominal amounts of money each week, storing food and staying at home is a tough option. Having lost their jobs, they are pressed to remain in in their communal living arrangements in poorly maintained houses with people they do not know. They are terrified to go out for fear of catching the virus, and shop locally at inflated prices. Stuck in rooms with little access to the outside world, already isolated and without friends, mental stress is rising for young refugees. Some have panicked when affected by fever and we have been able to offer support by phone. Doubling down on the uncertainty of immigration status and loss of the little space they do have, Covid-19 is a double nightmare.
For those of us with a nice home to sit in, the experience is different. For some, Covid-19 is scary, but brings family time, new experiences working at home and some moments of reflection. For those who are not settled and who are disconnected, this is very different. Slim hopes are stretched, psychological stress rises and depression sets in. KRAN continues to stand with our young refugees. They need our support right now.