Job loss, poverty and lack of basic healthcare for half of Latin American Londoners

Half of Latin Americans in London are out of work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with many lacking access to basic healthcare.

The language barrier means that many Latin Americans struggle to access basic services to which they are entitled, one charity has found.

The Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO) has also revealed that one in seven Latin American Londoners are not even registered with a GP.

This lack of basic healthcare has raised concerns about the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine among the Latin American community.

Despite this, Lambeth was left off the list of London boroughs invited by government to bid for funding to communicate with communities most at risk from Covid-19 around the importance of vaccinations, despite being one of the most diverse areas in the country.

Lucía Vinzón, Director of IRMO, said: “Vulnerable Latin Americans are at risk of being excluded from the vaccine roll out, due to the barriers they face accessing basic healthcare.

“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.

“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.”

The Latin American community is estimated to be the eighth largest non-UK born population in London, at around 145,000 people.

The community once had very high rates of employment, although they were often overrepresented in low paid sectors, such as office cleaning and hospitality.

Three quarters earned less than the London Living Wage and many live in inadequate and overcrowded private rental accommodation.

A report published by the IRMO has revealed the extent of a crisis of rising unemployment, abusive employment practices, inadequate housing and increasing food poverty facing the Latin American community.

The research found that almost half (49 per cent) of Latin American Londoners are out of work as a result of the pandemic with half experiencing financial hardship.

A further 60 per cent struggle to pay rent, which can be heightened by rogue landlords who have continued to harass and evict people throughout lockdown.

Four out of 10 in the community have no internet at home and 15 per cent have no devices at all.

With London now a month into the third lockdown, this research demonstrates the extreme hardships facing Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) migrant communities during the pandemic.

National surveys suggest that people from BAME backgrounds are far more likely to refuse having the Covid-19 vaccine – with one survey reporting that only 57 per cent of respondents from BAME backgrounds said they would accept a vaccine.

Concerns have been raised about the spread of vaccine misinformation prompting many prominent BAME politicians, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan, to take to social media to try to ease concerns.

Last month, Tooting MP and NHS Doctor Rosena Allin-Khan suggested using local pharmacies as a way to tackle vaccine hesitancy and target communities where there is an issue with vaccine uptake.

She said: “I think a huge issue surrounding vaccine uptake at the moment is about trust.

“Trust in the government, but also trusting the people who are going to be actually delivering it, and then trust that it’s going to work and be safe, and I think this is where community pharmacists have a huge role to play, particularly in making sure that black and minority ethnic communities take the vaccine.”

Lambeth council leader Cllr Jack Hopkins said: “It is deeply confusing that one of the most diverse boroughs in the entire country was not invited to bid for the vaccine funding, especially at a time when we see significant concern in our communities about vaccine hesitancy – which is what this funding is supposed to be helping to solve.

“We are calling on Robert Jenrick to announce another immediate round of funding, open to all London boroughs to bid for in an open process. This funding will be vital to the work we are doing to protect our most at-risk communities – and no borough should be left out of receiving this funding because of an arbitrary decision”

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