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Emma Thompson Urges UK Government to Protect Migrants During COVID-19 Lockdown

By Amber Milne

LONDON, April 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson has backed a call for the British government to extend help to migrants during the coronavirus lockdown, saying many had lost livelihoods and were struggling to buy food.

She was among those who signed an open letter to Britain's home minister urging her to make state aid available to families that have not yet qualified for permanent residency.

Thompson said excluding those without settled status in Britain "can have a devastating effect on families, leaving children exposed to cruel levels of poverty, and even destitution".

"That is why I believe it is imperative that our government shows decency and humanity and ensures these families have somewhere to turn if they lose their income due to the coronavirus," she said in the letter, made public on Friday.

Playwright Tom Stoppard, who fled the Nazis as a child refugee, and actress Thandie Newton, who is of Zimbabwean and British heritage, were among those who signed the letter in support of a campaign by the Children's Society, a British charity.

The letter pointed out that under existing rules, many of the most vulnerable in society, including victims of trafficking and domestic abuse were unable to access financial support.

Some were among the "NHS heroes battling on the front line" of the pandemic, the letter said, referring to Britain's National Health Service workers, many of whom are from immigrant backgrounds.

This month immigrant key workers from drivers to doctors featured in a video circulated online highlighting the discrimination faced by migrants before the pandemic and urging British people not to forget the role they played.

"You clap for me now ... but don't forget when it's no longer quiet," said first, second, and third-generation immigrant workers in the video.

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(Reporting by Amber Milne; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)