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Home Secretary Refuses to Scrap Migrant Welfare Curbs During Covid-19

Priti Patel Dismisses Calls to End Migrant Welfare Curbs During Covid-19

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, MPs and campaigners alike have urged the government to reassess its restrictions on migrant welfare. Currently, a significant number of migrants, as well as asylum seekers and refugees, are unable to access state benefits; a consequence of the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ condition.

Vast swathes of migrants in the UK are subject to ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) – a condition of those with leave to remain or enter. Those with NRPF are restricted from accessing specified benefits and public housing, which includes the likes of Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, child tax credits, housing benefit and much more.

Thousands across the country are facing the same struggles as those with settled status but are unable to access the same forms of government support

During the Covid-19 crisis, this has had devastating repercussions for thousands across the country who are facing the same struggles as those with settled status but are unable to access the same forms of government support.

Labour MP Stephen Timms shed light on the difficulties many migrants with leave to remain are now enduring, explaining to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that some of those within Timms’ constituency are struggling to make ends meet as a result of job losses across the country yet are unable to access the government’s Covid-19 support schemes.

This sparked controversy as Johnson demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of the NRPF condition, questioning why Timms’ constituents were unable to access state support. Concerns were subsequently raised as to how the Prime Minister is quite so unaware of how his government’s policies function.

This again shows either disingenuousness or a worrying misunderstanding of the NRPF policy by the government

On Monday 8th June, Home Secretary Priti Patel was asked if the NRPF condition would be suspended for the remaining duration of the pandemic. Her response served a striking blow to those in need of state funds, as she confirmed: “The answer is no.”

Home secretary refuses to suspend migrant welfare curbs
Home Secretary Priti Patel has refused to scrap migrant welfare curbs, specifically the No Recourse to Public Funds policy. [Image: PoliticsHome]

Instead, she attempted to divert attention by suggesting that local authorities have been given “resources to an extra £3.2bn to provide vital financial help.”

“Many migrant workers are in insecure employment or on zero hours contracts and therefore fall outside of these protections. Many have had their hours cut or lost their jobs entirely – despite government furlough schemes.”

However this again shows either disingenuousness or a worrying misunderstanding of the NRPF policy by the government. Labour MP Neil Coyle emphasised the irrelevancy of the Home Secretary’s claims, explaining that most funds are in fact not open to people with NRPF conditions imposed on them by her very department. 

Councils, for example, are unable to house people with NRPF conditions attached to their immigration status.

What’s more, Minnie Rehman of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants emphasised how and why the Home Secretary’s claims of supporting migrants throughout this crisis fall short.

“Furlough and self-employment schemes are only one small part of the picture when it comes to ensuring people are safe, supported and well.”

Speaking with PoliticsHome, Rehman explained: “Many migrant workers are in insecure employment or on zero hours contracts and therefore fall outside of these protections. Many have had their hours cut or lost their jobs entirely – despite government furlough schemes.”

This reinforces the need for migrant welfare curbs to be scrapped by the government. Despite the Home Secretary’s insistence that the government has gone above and beyond in its support schemes, this fails to acknowledge that many migrants are exempt from receiving such help.

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