Campaigners say the 'No Recourse to Public Funds' policy is illegal and puts thousands at risk of destitution. Credit: Jessica Taylor / UK Parliament.
Tory MPs have voted to retain a ban that stops migrants from receiving any public support during the pandemic – leaving thousands at risk of homelessness and ill-health.
Not a single Tory crossed the line on Tuesday night to back an amendment that would have suspended controversial ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rules for the duration of the pandemic. Labour and other progressive parties backed a change, but the vote fell by 248-337, split entirely on partisan lines.
Since 2012, a ‘NRPF condition’ has been imposed on all non-EEA migrants granted the legal right to live and work in the UK. They are required to pay taxes, but they are not permitted to avail themselves of the safety net those taxes fund, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Migrants say.
The Children’s Society estimates that over a million people have ‘Leave to Remain’ in the UK, but No Recourse to Public Funds. Over 100,000 children are in those families.
A recent letter from human rights and welfare organisations to Boris Johnson highlighted that earlier this year, the High Court ruled that the ‘NRPF’ policy is unlawful. “The policy is still in breach of basic human rights,” the groups said.
A suspension of the NRPF condition would enable people to access basic benefits, which could prevent them from becoming homeless.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, councils have been given some emergency funding to meet a range of cost pressures arising, including supporting people with NRPF. However, this funding will not cover the costs of preventing people with NRPF who were sleeping rough from returning to the streets, the Local Government Association says. Councils do not receive any specific funding from central government to support people with NRPF.
Boris Johnson appeared to learn about the unfairness of NRPF status only last month, and seemed to he agree to a review of the policy. However, No 10 very quickly backtracked, following the embarrassing appearance in front of MPs last month.
Campaigners are warning today that homelessness could soon treble without a change to the rules.
A spokesperson for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Migrants (JCWI), said: “There are tens of thousands of people, men, women and children, living in extreme poverty because their visas state that they have no recourse to public funds – condition which affects almost 1.4 million.
“[This] failure to vote to scrap NRPF is in effect a vote to keep families homeless, to keep people working for unliveable wages in intolerable conditions and to condemn people to continued abuse or ill health because they are barred from the public safety net.
“When Boris Johnson learnt that people working and paying taxes in the UK could be subject to NRPF and suffer these consequences, he was visibly shocked, as are we all when we learn about this horrible policy. Together with our allies, we will continue to campaign for an urgent end to NRPF.”
Find out how your MP voted here.
Just two other Conservatives voted for a separate amendment from rebel David Davis that would have limited detention to 28 days for migrants detained from EEA countries. In 2018, 20% of those in immigration detention were held for more than two months – despite generally having committed no criminal offence. This includes 225 people who were held for more than a year and 13 people for more than two years. Around half of those in immigration detention are seeking asylum from oppressive countries or situations.
Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.
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