In the first of a two part series, Dianna Djokey interviews Portsmouth-based supply teacher Adam (not his real name) about his experience of being a migrant during the pandemic. Adam’s name was changed at his request.
Dianna Djokey: How has Covid-19 affected you as a migrant?
Adam: When [Covid] kicked off in March, I was a [secondary school] supply teacher. When schools closed, I was unsure of where the next rent was coming from because as a supply teacher I wasn’t sure if I would be covered [by the] furlough scheme. Moreover, because of my status as a migrant I wasn’t sure if my employer could add me to scheme, I wasn’t sure if it would affect my status as I wasn’t allowed any recourse [to public funds, and] that was one of the major issues. Thankfully I was furloughed three weeks later. Before then I was completely distraught.
After doing research myself and checking with my employer, I realized it didn’t affect me, but up until that point, I was really worried. I know it’s not been the same for a lot of other migrants [in my position] who either didn’t qualify for furlough or weren’t associated with a company that could provide it, and who also didn’t have recourse to public funds [so] couldn’t apply for any benefits. The last six months has been me sitting in the same place and counting my blessing for my current situation, as bleak it may have been.
Can you explain what legal status you have as a migrant and how that has been for you? Because of Covid have there been any status issues you’ve had to take into consideration?
I [spoke] to my lawyer about it. I don’t have to resubmit another application until next year. My residence permit is valid for at least two and a half years and then I have to renew it.
[Editor’s note: Adam has been granted ‘Limited leave to remain’ in the UK, which requires an individual ‘to depart the UK at the end of the specified visa period, or to make a further application to the Home Office, through either an extension, further leave or indefinite leave to remain.’ Find out more here.]
Thankfully, I was in that grace period in that moment, however, after speaking to my lawyer I realized that people who were in the middle of making that application weren’t able to continue because of the delays placed on it. The lawyer is very good but she was getting the full brunt of it from both ends because she couldn’t do much for her clients as there were delays in the application. If the clients were asked to return to their own countries in the meantime, then the families will be asking her what happened.
Thinking about those things I find myself in the minority of people who are relatively shielded from the larger effects of being a migrant [during] the Covid pandemic.
How do you feel about having to re-apply for the right to remain in the UK, particularly in the context of the pandemic, Brexit and the ‘hostile environment’ policy brought in under then Home Secretary, Theresa
It’s all in the air at the moment. I feel uneasy to say the least because of the pandemic and being unsure how long it will take to resolve, and what [impact] Brexit will have [on] immigration policies in general. Coming up to next year [when I have to reapply], of course I’m worried. I don’t know what will affect my current status and because of the way the system is arranged, I can only reapply over a certain period of time to extend my biometric resident permit. I have to apply for that at least two or three more times in the course of the next five to six years before I can finally then apply to stay without having to go through the process and pay the fees for the application each and every time.
So yes I am uneasy, though I am hopeful that any changes in policies may not affect my current situation because we started [the process] earlier on. That’s the hope, as I can’t really be sure.
What other options would you have if your application was delayed or denied?
I have very little in regard to options considering the reason why I was granted my stay here is because I’m gay, and the country that I come from is Pakistan. If I were to be forced to leave, first of all I can’t take my husband with me, he cannot visit me, and if we leave for the country that I am from and they realize I am married to a man, it is still legal for me to be punished by death, [which] is still a thing.
So, considering I have basically no options [in Pakistan], I can go one of two ways. We can both try to move to another country or we could try to push the humanitarian reasons for why I cannot be deported, which was the initial claim we had. So those are the only two options I see in front of me, neither of which has the best probability of happening under present circumstances.
Are you still furloughed?
Furlough officially ended in September. As a supply teacher, with schools opening, I [could] return to work from the first week of September onwards. It depends how the schools get on and if they accept supply teachers who go from school to school. There is a concern for shielding [in supply teachers moving] between schools, and asking supply teachers to enter a new environment. So apart from those concerns, in theory I could still be employed, however, in practice I’m not sure how much work I will get.
S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:
- voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
- small businesses and self-employed people
- BAME communities
- people with disabilities
We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.