Covid-19: BAME Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:39 pm on 18th June 2020.

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Photo of Rosena Allin-Khan Rosena Allin-Khan Shadow Minister (Mental Health) 4:39 pm, 18th June 2020

I thank my hon. Friend Dawn Butler for bringing this important debate to the House.

I also thank my colleagues who have made such vital contributions today: my hon. Friends the Members for Slough (Mr Dhesi) and for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) spoke so movingly about the heartbreaking loss of loved ones; and my hon. Friends the Members for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), for Poplar and Limehouse (Apsana Begum), for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) and for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) rightly raised the important issue of poor-quality housing.

The need for actions, not words, and an end to pointless reports was raised eloquently by my hon. Friends Naz Shah, for West Ham (Ms Brown), for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) and for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson); and the importance of acknowledging the negative effects of covid-19 and discrimination on the mental health of BAME people was raised by my hon. Friend Tracy Brabin, my right hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn and my hon. Friend Sam Tarry.

The poverty experienced by our BAME communities due to Government policies was perfectly highlighted by my right hon. Friend Stephen Timms and my hon. Friends the Members for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) and for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana); and my hon. Friends the Members for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) reminded us of our reliance on those from our BAME communities in our NHS.

The resounding message is clear: our BAME communities are grieving. The priority from the outset of this pandemic should have been to save lives—all lives—but it pains me to have to stand here and state the most obvious point, which has, regrettably, been missed: that no one life is more important than any other.

The Government have liked to describe the fight against coronavirus as a war; to use their analogy, our BAME communities would have been the cannon fodder. These people’s lives are not, and should not have been, dispensable. It truly amazes me that in 2020 lives are not valued equally here in the UK, and the covid-19 crisis has shone a much needed spotlight on this stark and most harsh of realities.

It is simply an outrage that people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage have a 100% greater risk of dying from covid-19 than white British people. The stats are no better for those of Afro-Caribbean descent. The first 10 doctors to die in the UK from coronavirus were all from BAME backgrounds.

If I may, I wish to take some time to honour just a few of the victims of this virus: Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, a child aged 13; Sudhir Sharma and his daughter Pooja Sharma; Nadir Nur, a London bus driver; Belly Mujinga, a station worker at Victoria station, just down the road; Esther Akinsanya, a nurse who died in the intensive care unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she had worked for more than 20 years; and Dr Fayez Ayache, who aged 76 was still working as a GP—yesterday I had the true honour of talking to his daughter, Layla, who described how her father loved working for the NHS so much because it brought people together, gave a freedom that some have never experienced before and gave hope and light to those who were wandering a darkened path.