Friday, June 12, 2020

Scrap the NRPF

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the UK have an immigration status that allows them to work here, but which prevents them from accessing most benefits should they become unemployed. It is the “no recourse to public funds” immigration status for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, to prevent thousands from falling into destitution and homelessness. High numbers of people have this status attached to their visas. The “no recourse to public funds” status was introduced in 2012 as one of a series of hostile environment immigration measuresThose on this visa are barred from things such as universal credit, disability allowances, local authority homelessness support, free school meals and access to mainstream refuges for victims of domestic violence.

Many are struggling to survive during the exceptional circumstances of lockdown, with no safety net, according to the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales. Many have lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 pandemic and are struggling to feed their families and pay rent. Many face losing their homes once restrictions on evictions are lifted.

Charities all over the country have been helping to feed families designated with this immigration status, after lockdown pushed them into unemployment. Homelessness charities have warned of the rise in homeless migrant workers with the “NRPF” status – many of whom were working until lockdown in the restaurant and hotel industry, and have struggled to pay rents since losing their jobs. Although landlords are prevented from evicting tenants during lockdown, many who have informal tenancies have lost their homes anyway. Councils have been given special dispensation to house homeless migrants with this immigration status for the duration of the pandemic, but there is no longer-term provision to fund measures to stop people who were sleeping rough from returning to the streets once lockdown ends and hotels housing the homeless return to being used by tourists.

More than 40 migrants’ rights organisations have called for the NRPF status to be scrapped permanently on the grounds that it “bars most migrants from accessing a vast proportion of the social security net we all rely on in times of crisis”.

Sally Daghlian, chief executive of the migrant rights charity Praxis, which has helped hundreds of families facing destitution during the pandemic, said: “We have seen parents going without food to try to ensure their children eat, and people facing homelessness and mounting debt. In the face of this pandemic, people with NRPF have not been supported through the government’s Covid-19 safety net. If the government is committed to ending destitution, child poverty and homelessness, it should permanently suspend NRPF as a matter of urgency.”

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