The essay Invisible Heroes by Ruth won a TogetherintheUK Special Award in the Storytelling Competition. We wanted to acknowledge the bravery of writing about the pain and difficulty of being undocumented. It is a very clear account of what it means and the difference the Right to Remain means to people’s lives.
Here we are in a country that we thought we could call home, a place to accomplish our dreams and to work to support our families back in our countries. Most of us chose to overstay after our visas expired so we could continue to work. But little did we know that doing that is the wrong decision as it only makes matters worse.
When you are undocumented your choices are limited and you cannot access help from the government or services, so you end up doing exploitative and underpaid jobs.
It is difficult to get affordable accommodation close to your job as the rent is very high and your meagre wages aren’t sufficient to pay the rent. So you end up having to travel very far to find cheap houses where you can afford the rent. Then you have to commute on long journeys to get to work and half of your wages are spent on travelling.
Your health is also at risk because of Covid and you are also putting the health of others at risk by not staying at home because you still have to carry on working in order to survive.
The world is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Scientists have discovered vaccines to treat the virus and the government are rolling it out to every adult in the UK. There was a campaign for undocumented migrants to be eligible for the vaccine and the government has agreed that everyone regardless of their status should access it and won’t get deported. Even though the government said that there won’t be any checks on migrants, a lot of them are still scared to come forward to be vaccinated and so are still posing a health risk to the public and to all those who have been vaccinated.
We are too scared to ask our employers for a pay rise in case they tell us to leave. If you are doing a live-in job, your employer is too scared to let you go out, even if it is just to get a bit of fresh air. They fear that you might catch Covid and infect them as well. You have to stay locked up in the house every day as if you are a prisoner, plus you have to deal with the problems of your own families and kids back home who are depending on you as the main breadwinner.
Then there is the problem of getting signed up to a GP. There is the barrier of feeling unable to change to a GP closer to where you live because of the fear that they will ask for ID and proof of address and this will stop you from accessing the service at all. Being undocumented is very hard and thinking about becoming undocumented is very hard.
I think undocumented migrants are invisible heroes as they are the ones who suffer a lot in silence because they are too scared to speak out or ask for help.
They are living in deplorable and overcrowded conditions where they have to share houses with lots of people, sometimes a maximum of ten people or more. And there is the sharing of one toilet and one kitchen which isn’t safe during a pandemic.
But what can they do, they don’t have choice so they just have to continue living an invisible life.
I think undocumented migrants should be given Indefinite Leave to Remain for their bravery during the pandemic and receive special recognition because when others have been safe working from home during the pandemic, just like essential workers they are risking their health to survive.
Giving undocumented migrants Indefinite Leave to Remain will give them security to be able to rent proper accommodation or own their own homes. It will give them access to legal jobs where they can work and pay tax and pay into a pension. They would be able to access medical help if sick and to be able to get surgery if they have to without being charged. This will prevent them from avoiding seeking medical help because of fear that they will not be able to afford to pay.
I want to live in a world where all undocumented people can be free and be like everybody else, a world of equal rights and status.