.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, June 12, 2020

Government must untie hands of councils to help migrants during Covid crisis

The Guardian reports that local authorities have called on the government to suspend the controversial “no recourse to public funds” immigration status for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, to prevent thousands from falling into destitution and homelessness.

They say that 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. 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.

High numbers of people who have this status attached to their visas have been approaching councils for emergency assistance during the pandemic. Many are struggling to survive during the exceptional circumstances of lockdown, with no safety net.

The “no recourse to public funds” status was introduced in 2012 as one of a series of hostile environment immigration measures. Those policies have come under increasing scrutiny in the wake of the Windrush scandal, which saw thousands of legal UK residents denied access to work, housing and healthcare:

Since March 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.

The LGA has asked for greater clarity on how they can help people who are destitute and homeless because of their immigration status. A suspension of the NRPF condition would allow people to claim welfare benefits, which could stave off homelessness, it says.

David Renard, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “Councils have been doing everything they can to support all groups facing homelessness. Councils are now planning their next steps in supporting people to move on from emergency accommodation. A temporary removal of the NRPF condition would reduce public health risks and pressures on homelessness services by enabling vulnerable people to access welfare benefits.”

This status was a problem before the pandemic, particularly in trying to prevent homelessness, but since lockdown it has caused all sorts of problems, despite the concessions and additional money put into assisting migrants in this category. I know from the emergency food resource we have set up in my own ward that helpers there have been assisting families who have no recourse to public funds.

Surely the time has come to abolish the status altogether and ditch the 'hostile environment' in favour of one based on charity and equality.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?