Boris Johnson’s ignorance of his own damaging policies keeps coming back to bite him. Recently, the Prime Minister stated that the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF rule) applied only to undocumented migrants. While at least he’s now aware of the policy itself, his continued public ignorance harms those most affected.
Outrage came after Johnson rejected suggestions for the NRPF rule that applies to migrants in the UK to be stopped last week, as the effects of the pandemic continue.
‘I think it would be not the right way forward to change that’, the Prime Minister replied, ‘It’s a very longstanding provision in this country that NRPF conditions should apply to those for instance who are here illegally or unlawfully.’
In actual fact, the NRPF rule applies to well over a million people who do have a legal right to be in the UK but have temporary leave. For example, this could cover various forms of visa enabling people to live and work in the UK. This could include the new skilled worker visa, spouse visa and international student visas.
The Prime Minister has been asked multiple times, by charities and campaigners alike long before the pandemic, to call a halt to the policy. In May last year, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants wrote directly to Johnson after he stated that the government would ‘see what it could do to help’.
The organisation had made clear the need to assist those struggling due to having no access to state support during the public health crisis. At this meeting with MP’s, he appeared completely unaware of the policy and the effects it had.
The NRPF rule has been in force since 2012, as part of the raft of ‘hostile environment’ policies brought in under the Conservative government. While designed originally to lower numbers of people in the country illegally, NRPF and policies like it make life in the UK as hard as possible for large numbers of the migrant and asylum seeker population.
The Unity Project, a group campaigning for the end of NRPF, states that over 1.4 million people are subject to the policy. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, they say the impact has worsened. ‘Since the pandemic, the number of people applying to the Home Office to remove the NRPF condition because they can no longer support themselves has increased six-fold.’ Migrants affected by this rule can only apply for child support or disability allowance if they prove extreme hardship to the Home Office, which is extremely hard to do.
Poverty and homelessness are on the rise. A recent think tank study found that over 700,000 people have now been pushed into poverty due to Coronavirus, bringing the total to 15 million in the UK. The study also found that over 700,000 more people had only been prevented from falling into by the government’s £20 Universal Credit uplift introduced in April. Migrants subject to NRPF remain completely shut out from this support.
As government instructions of stay at home under lockdown restrictions continue, many migrants living and working in the UK are unable to do so safely, without becoming destitute due to the NRPF policy. For all people to equally comply with public health guidance, access to the country’s safety net must also be equal.
[Header Image: wenwales.org.uk]