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Support for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants during COVID-19

Guidance about council services and community organisations for non-UK nationals living in Lewisham

Lewisham is becoming a Borough of Sanctuary and has a proud history of supporting refugees and migrants. Lewisham is home to people from more than 75 countries speaking over 170 different languages. This diversity is Lewisham’s greatest strength and the contributions made to our borough are limitless.

We know that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the lives of everyone in Lewisham, but these changes have impacted our refugee, asylum seeker and migrant communities more than most. Lewisham is your home and we are here during this hard time to support you and your family. Learn more about our Borough of Sanctuary programme and how we are supporting refugee families.

COVID-19 help and advice for non-UK nationals

Read the Mayor of London's guidance for non-UK nationals during the COVID-19 outbreak. This page provides information about:

  • Access to healthcare
  • Visas and immigration
  • The EU Settlement Scheme
  • Own language resources
  • Time off work
  • Getting support
  • Travel advice.
Council support

If you live in Lewisham and require our support, please do come and speak to us. No matter your immigration status we can help you on many issues including food parcels, emergency housing or your English for speakers of other languages course. Local charities and help and support groups in Lewisham (see section below) can also help advocate on behalf of you on these issues as well.

If you need food to be delivered to your home Lewisham Local can deliver a weekly food parcel to you for £15. If you cannot afford this, you can get a referral through an organisation you are linked with. For example, a school or charity. If you are not linked to an organisation, contact Citizen’s Advice Lewisham for advice.

If you need advice and support with housing please do get in touch with our Housing Team. The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the Government’s guidance for people who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF) and require shelter during the pandemic. If you are worried about homelessness do get in touch with the Housing Options team. We are campaigning to suspend the NRPF condition and you can find further advice and guidance on NRPF from the NRPF Network website.

We have made our English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses available through distance learning and online. So if you are studying ESOL you can continue on learning. Learn more about our ESOL courses.

Independent help and support in Lewisham for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers

Lewisham has many groups which work to support refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. If you need independent help and support you can contact one of these organisations:

Temporary changes to asylum and resettlement processes

The UK Government have announced temporary changes to the asylum and resettlement policy and practice. To read summaries of these changes visit the Refugee Council’s website. We support the Refugee Council’s call for the government to protect people seeking asylum and refugees at risk due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Campaigns

We are continuing to support the rights of and protect migrants, refugees and people who are seeking asylum at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mayor Damien Egan, Cllr Barnham and Cllr Bonavia has written in support of the Children Society’s Lifeline For All campaign to the Home Secretary to ask the Government to suspend the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)condition during the COVID-19 outbreak. Many migrants, including key workers keeping us safe have a NRPF condition to their immigration status. This means they and their families, including their children, are not able to access vital benefits. We believe during COVID-19 NRPF condition should be suspended to support the most vulnerable in our community.

Read our letter to the Home Secretary regarding suspending the NRPF condition (PDF).

We also support the Refugee Council’s policy calls to the Home Office to protect asylum seekers and refugees. Read a blog post by the Refugee Council to learn more.

We are continuing to be part of campaigns such as the ‘Lift the Ban’ which calls for the right to work for those who have claimed asylum and have waited more than 6 months for a decision. Additionally we were pleased to see the Government have decided to extend free school meals to NRPF families nationally, this has been Lewisham Council policy since October 2019 and shows our commitment to supporting the most vulnerable.