According to the report Towards Visibility, in 2016 some 250,000 Latin Americans were living in the United Kingdom, of whom 145,000 lived in London. A high percentage had dual nationality and European citizenship. This figure has increased dramatically but the problems tend to remain the same. With the pandemic, the situation is more difficult still.
Natacha Andueza Bosh
Latin American communities are mainly concentrated in Lambeth and Southwark, and although the growing number of infections and deaths due to Covid-19 in the UK is public, there are no specific reports on how immigrants are affected.
The government has announced that those who need medical assistance can access the NHS free of charge, regardless of their immigration status.
In this respect, Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) told The Prisma how it is helping the different Spanish-speaking communities in these circumstances.
Aside from the NHS, where else can they turn?
Due to the complexity of the British system and the lack of interpreters in public services, local authorities, etc., the Latin American community tends to go to specialist organisations that provide services in Spanish and Portuguese. In this sense, it is very positive that Latin American organisations have been able to adapt our services to continue providing assistance remotely during this pandemic.
Do these communities receive the necessary equipment to face the virus?
A large number of LAWRS users have reported that, despite their requests, employers are not providing equipment such as masks and gloves at work. However, there are no specific services that provide this equipment, it is done so at the employer’s discretion.
How do you inform the community about the implications of the coronavirus?
LAWRS keeps in contact with its users through WhatsApp and Facebook groups, in which we publish relevant information translated to Spanish and Portuguese.
What are the community’s main concerns?
For our service users, economic issues are the greatest concern. As such, we have received a growing number of enquiries regarding benefits, particularly applications for Universal Credit, and advice on work-related matters – especially on the assistance schemes announced by the government. Unfortunately, these schemes do not cover the needs of everyone in the community – the undocumented, for example.
Moreover, some schemes depend on the actions of employers, who in many cases prefer to fire employees than to seek assistance from the government.
These worries, alongside the effects of isolation, have led to an increase in our consultations for psychotherapy and mental health support. Another consequence of isolation is the increase in cases of domestic violence.
How many in the Spanish-speaking community have been infected?
This information is not currently being made public. It is unclear whether the government is collecting this data.
Do you know if the instructions to stay at home are being adhered to?
At LAWRS, we recommend that our users follow the government’s recommendations on isolating. But we know that many of them must continue working, as they have no savings or recourse to public funds, or to the government’s assistance plans.
Those women who continue working, especially as cleaners, should be provided with protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.
How do you communicate with these communities?
Our organisation has established a system of telephone, email or online support, through which we keep in constant communication with our users. We also use our Facebook page and WhatsApp groups to distribute official information translated to Spanish and Portuguese.
Where can they find information on coronavirus?
Doctors of the World has translated key coronavirus information to different languages, the union United Voices of the World has translated employment-related information, and LAWRS regularly publishes information on Facebook.
What precautions must they take if they decide to go outside?
The government recommends only leaving the house when essential and, if doing so, following official social-distancing guidelines. Anyone presenting with severe symptoms should call 111.
(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu (firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay