Yesterday The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) published a report regarding the detrimental effects of the No Recourse to Public Funds policy on migrants during the pandemic. The report outlines the disadvantages migrants face and calls on the government to suspend NRPF for good.
The No Recourse to Public Funds condition has been in effect since the late 90s, curtailing an estimated 1.4 million people’s access to any state support. However, JCWI found that the policy has further restricted migrants without permanent citizenship, with 75% of participants declaring their unemployment status during the pandemic. With NRPF, migrants do not have access to the financial support they need to look after themselves and their families.
The JCWI surveyed 310 migrants, with 50% revealing that they had no access to the public safety net. The report stated that half of the migrants ‘said it would be impossible for themselves or a member of their family to isolate safely in their home.’
They were 52% more likely to be in that position than migrants who did have access to public funds
Despite the risks of the pandemic, the disadvantages of the NRPF condition means they have no choice but to go out to work to provide for their families. This includes 44% of workers in frontline key-worker roles in the hospitality and cleaning sectors, which have the largest proportion of migrant staff.
Migrants have also faced job insecurity which has left many unemployed or even destitute. This has forced unions to step in to protect workers by calling on employers to introduce fair furlough initiatives.
The IWGB has started up its Fair Furlough Now campaign, highlighting cleaners as essential key workers who are ‘amongst the worst affected workers by the pandemic.’ They have urged the government to extend the COVID-19 job retention scheme and indefinite furlough to become a compulsory requirement for employers.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has an uncertain stance on the matter of NRPF, as back in May 2020, he vowed to find out how many people were facing such conditions and assist them. Despite this statement, the Home Office still does not collect data for people facing NPRF. The Prime Minister also falsely claimed that NPRF conditions only apply to those living in the country illegally, which caused outrage back in January 2021.
The JCWI, MedAct, Doctors of the World and 27 other organisations wrote an open letter to the Home Secretary at the start of the pandemic on the 16th of March 2020 and again on the 14th of January 2021, calling for the suspension of the no recourse to public funds rules. In June 2020 however, Priti Patel refused to scrap welfare curbs and instead called for migrants to apply for exemption only.
In response to the Home Secretary’s decision, the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, the Work and Pensions Select Committee chair, urged the government to suspend NRPF rules for the remainder of the pandemic.
He argued in defence of UK migrants who have had to face an “invidious choice between staying at home and facing financial ruin or going to work and risking spreading the disease.”
Due to the government’s lack of action, The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has started a petition regarding the suspension, which has just under 3000 signatures. Both the JCWI and the Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO) have now called on the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. The campaigners are now holding out hope that the Chancellor will suspend NRPF rules during today’s Budget 2021 announcement.
Satbir Singh, the Chief Executive of the JCWI, stated: ‘Any road map to recovery must include suspending NRPF. No family should be going hungry or sleeping rough because of where they were born.’[Header image: Channel4.com]