How to get support if you’re a refugee or asylum seeker during coronavirus

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If you’re a refugee or asylum seeker, you’ll know the UK’s asylum system can be tough, and take its toll on people and families.

Settling into a foreign country and a whole new system can be disorientating and difficult at the best of times. And the challenges caused by coronavirus can make this even tougher, making it harder to access to accommodation, money, and technology, and putting you at greater risk than ever of poverty and isolation.

Scottish Refugee Council is an independent charity dedicated to supporting people who need refugee protection.

We can give you practical support, advice and a listening ear through every step of the asylum process, to help you rebuild your life. We also work with communities and community groups, and campaign for policy changes that make a positive difference to refugees and asylum seekers.

To support you during coronavirus, we’re working to increase our phone and online presence, to help you access food, shelter, medical care, support and information. 

For refugees and asylum seekers trying to cope with coronavirus, we answer some of the questions you ask us most often.

Will my asylum claim be affected by lockdown?

The Home Office has made a few changes to asylum claims because of coronavirus:

  1. They’re working on a new system for you to register your asylum claim that lets you avoid travel and contact with other people

  2. They’ve paused substantive asylum interviews, and they’re looking for other ways to manage these interviews to make decisions on asylum claims 

  3. If they’ve refused your asylum claim or you need to submit more evidence for your claim, you usually have to travel to Liverpool.

    You don’t have to do this anymore, and can post any extra evidence you have to submit to: 

    Further Submissions Unit
    The Capital Building
    Old Hall Street
    L3 9PP

    Or email it to

  4. The Home Office has also suspended all evictions and terminations of asylum support for three months 

If the Home Office have rejected your asylum claim or have recently granted you asylum, the Home Office would usually evict you from your asylum accommodation. But they’ve suspended all evictions until June. So if they’ve issued you with an eviction notice, they'll postpone the eviction until then. This also applies if they’ve suspended your benefits payments.

For more information on making an asylum claim during coronavirus lockdown, see our Covid19 resources page on the Scottish Refugee Council website, which we update regularly. 

If you’re struggling with any particular issues (or just need someone friendly to talk things through with!) please call our helpline on 0141 223 7979 to talk to a caseworker. 

You shouldn’t have to feel isolated or unsupported – especially at a time like this! 

I live in asylum accommodation, which means it’s virtually impossible to do social distancing. What should I do?

The Home Office is discussing widening its pool of asylum accommodation around the country so it can meet its obligations to house everyone safely. 

In the meantime, the NHS have some guidance on how to keep yourself as safe as possible: 

  • Spend as little time as you can in all shared-living areas like the kitchen

  • If you share a bathroom, wipe every surface you come in contact with and clean it after every use with detergent (and get the people you live with to do the same thing!) 

  • If you have windows in your bedroom, leave them open as much as you can

We know this doesn’t solve all of the problems you might have if you’re living in overcrowded asylum accommodation. And we understand that it’s not always possible or realistic to follow this advice. 

We’re doing everything we can to keep everyone living in temporary accommodation safe. Everyone’s health matters. We’re all dependent on each other right now to slow the spread of the virus. And to do that everyone needs to have the resources to follow health protection measures. No one can be left behind.

How can I keep my children happy and learning at home?

If you have a family, it might be hard to help your children with homework, make sure they have access to all the online and physical resources they need, and explain what’s happening without upsetting or stressing them out.

And we know if you’re struggling with language barriers or don’t have reliable access to the internet, these problems become even more complex.

We’ve found the most useful resources for helping your kids with homework are:

  • BBC Bitesize: easy to navigate and to choose work for the right age. They’ve also started publishing new online lessons for all ages every day!

  • Sumdog: games-based maths, grammar and spelling practise. And you can access it for free during coronavirus

If you’re struggling to explain the virus and the lockdown to your children, try using Coronavirus: A Book For Children – a free book that might help you talk through what’s happening.

If you have very limited or no access to the internet at home, these resources might be almost impossible to access. 

If you need help getting access to the internet and you’re a refugee or going through the asylum process, call our helpline or visit our website to speak to an advisor to find out how we can support you.

I don’t speak English. How can I access information and government updates about the virus?

The government and the media are releasing new information, updates, and advice about coronavirus every day. And we understand how important it is to read this in a language you understand.

Doctors of the World have created Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for patients in 43 languages. The guidance is based on the government’s updated advice and health information.

The NHS has also published information to help you through coronavirus in Arabic, Chinese, Mandarin, and Urdu. And they’re working on translating it into more languages soon.

The New Scots Connect Forum is made up of community groups across Scotland, designed to encourage community support and signposting of useful resources.

If you need help access a phone or the internet to use these resources, call our helpline or visit our website to speak to an advisor. We’ve asked all our supporters for donations of smartphones, tablets and laptops, as well as pre-paid sim cards, which we’ll distribute to people who need them. 

I’m living on £5 a day and I’m self-isolating. How do I feed my family and get the medical help I need?

If you’re in the asylum system, you’ll get either £37.75 a week or £35.39 a week. And even in the best of times, it’s incredibly difficult to keep healthy and sane on such a tight budget. 

We’re working hard to put pressure on the government to increase asylum support rates by £20 a week, to give you the best chance to look after yourself and their families during this crisis. 

For immediate support, call our helpline to see if you’re eligible for emergency money.

There are also lots of online community support groups and organisations distributing food parcels around Glasgow, including Glasgow Mutual Aid, Refuweegee, Kinning Park Complex, and Glasgow Gurdwara. See our Covid19 Resources page for a full list.

You can help refugees and asylum seekers

Make a donation to our Covid-19 Refugee Support Fund today. Every penny will help protect the most vulnerable during coronavirus.

Get in touch if you can donate a smartphone, laptop or tablet. As we all adapt to remote working, not all refugees can do the same. Technology is a lifeline that will give people access to vital services and important updates on coronavirys.

If you have a spare smartphone, laptop or tablet, please let us know by emailing and we can make arrangements to deliver them to people and families in need.

We’ve invited charities and organisations working hard to support people through coronavirus to share their work and answer your questions.

Look out for more guest blog posts and tell us what else you’d like to hear about 💚