Half of Latin Americans in London are out of work as a result of the pandemic and 1 in 7 are not registered with the GP. The lack of access to basic healthcare raises concerns about the roll out of the vaccine among the community.
This is revealed in the study The impact of Covid-19 on the lives of Latin American migrants, carried out by the Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO).
According to official data, including the most recent Census, there are just under 250,000 Latin Americans living in the UK, of which around 145,000 live in London. This includes regular, irregular and second generation groups.
This community is estimated to be the eighth largest non-UK born population in London and it is larger than the Chinese community. In London Latin Americans are concentrated in South and North East London, with key populations in Lambeth, Southwark and Haringey.
This community is well educated, with half having a university education. However, many struggle with a lack of English. Indeed, the language barrier makes it difficult for many to access basic services to which they are entitled.
Prior to the pandemic, Latin Americans had very high rates of employment, although they were overrepresented in low paid sectors, such as office cleaning and hospitality.
In addition, three quarters earned less than the London Living Wage and many live in inadequate and overcrowded private rental accommodation.
And as if being an immigrant is not hard enough, being an immigrant in times of pandemic triples the grief.
The research reveals the intersecting crises of rising unemployment, abusive employment practices, inadequate housing and increasing food poverty facing the Latin American community.
This is compounded by digital exclusion and the language barrier, meaning that many find it difficult to access mainstream support.
The research found that 49% are out of work as a result of the pandemic, 1 in 7 are not registered with a GP, 60% are struggling to pay rent, half are experiencing financial hardship, A third are facing food poverty, and 4 out of 10 have no internet at home, and 15% have no devices.
Now in a third lockdown, the study demonstrates the extreme hardships facing BAME migrant communities.
Often unaware of employment rights and with many on insecure job contracts, Latin Americans are being denied furlough and sick pay or are being made redundant without appropriate processes. Rogue landlords have continued to harass and evict people throughout lockdown.
“Vulnerable Latin Americans are at risk of being excluded from the vaccine roll out, due to the barriers they face accessing basic healthcare,” says Lucía Vinzón, director of Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO), the charity that published the report.
Therefore, she points out, “It is crucial that national and local authorities, including public health bodies, recognise this community as an ethnic minority in order to make visible the impacts of the pandemic and to ensure the vaccine reaches everyone.”