MANILA – A “whole load of Filipinos” are among the undocumented migrants who have not been since since the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze in London, and may either have “deliberately disappeared” for fear of immigration authorities, or died in the tragic fire, according to a report in the web site of the UK’s Independent.
“Undocumented migrants and illegal subtenants who survived the Grenfell Tower blaze may be unaccounted for and are not seeking state support due to fears over their immigration and housing status, charities and legal experts have warned,” the report said. It had a further grim implication: “Underreporting of illegal subtenants could also mean the death toll is higher than currently assumed, it is feared.”
The report by May Bulman of the Independent named one local volunteer, who requested anonymity as saying “she had heard multiple reports that undocumented migrants living in the flats had ‘deliberately disappeared’ following the blaze, including a large group of Filipinos.”
The volunteer-source added: “There must have been a bunch of people in that building who probably escaped on the night and probably ran away from the situation. There has been speak from other residents of a whole load of Filipinos living in there that no one has seen since it happened.”
Because of the murky casualty reporting after the fire that quickly engulfed the 27-story block tower, barely providing firefighters time to rescue dozens believed trapped there, advocacy groups are calling on authorities to declare an “immigration status amnesty amid concern victims are not seeking support over fears they could be referred to police or Home Office,” said the Independent.
Thus far, only one Filipino has been declared still missing and the other day was “presumed dead”–a 60-year old immigrant, Ligaya Moore, whose case was first flagged by Sen. Joel Villanueva because she is a churchmate, a member of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) chapter in London.
The Philippine Embassy in London earlier said a few Filipinos were treated for minor injuries, but there was no official acknowledgment that undocumented Filipinos may have been among those feared trapped in the tower.
The report in the Independent arose from observations by volunteers and charities helping the local community in Kensington had come across “a number of undocumented migrants or asylum seekers who have lost everything following the blaze, but are afraid to seek help from authorities for fears that they could be referred onto police or the Home Office.”
The report added: “Members of the community have also raised concerns that large ‘swathes’ of foreign nationals who lived in the block and may have been undocumented have simply “disappeared” and are not on any missing lists, raising concerns that they have either fled the site or are among the dead but unaccounted for.”
The Independent said the Radical Housing Network, a London-wide organization of which the Grenfell Action Group is a member, had called on authorities “to rehouse all residents locally, regardless of their residential or immigration status, urging they must commit to rehousing all residents.”
Because of such “mounting concerns,” the Independent quoted a government source saying the “Met police had committed that if victims living in the UK illegally contact the hotline set up for victims, they will take no action.” However, “they did not mention whether Home Office officials would have any involvement.”