On Wednesday 27th May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed to review the No Recourse to Public Funds policy (NRPF), saying ‘people who’ve worked hard for this country who live and work here should have support of one kind or another’. In an appearance before the Public Liaison committee, the Prime Minister was clearly taken aback to learn that migrants living lawfully in the UK may have the NRPF condition attached to their visa and therefore be unable to access any state benefits, including Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance.
It is truly a shocking policy and we welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to review it and help those families affected by it. Today (Thursday 28th May), over 30 migrants’ rights organisations have written to the Prime Minister to outline the urgent changes that are needed to protect families affected by NRPF. You can view the original letter coordinated by JCWI and The Unity Project, and an up-to-date list of signatories, here.
28 May 2020
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: No Recourse to Public Funds
Following your appearance at the Liaison Committee on 27 May 2020, we are writing to welcome your commitment to ensuring that those without recourse to public funds are given support.
During the sitting, and in response to Stephen Timms MP, you stated:
“Clearly people who have worked hard for this country, who live and work here should have support of one kind or another. But you have raised a very very important point. The condition of their leave to remain is that they should have no recourse to public funds.
I will find out how many there are in that position and we will see what we can do to help.”
We are pleased to see you recognise that more support is needed for those who live and work in the UK, regardless of their immigration status. As you will be aware, since 2012, a ‘NRPF condition’ has been imposed on all 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.
Earlier this year, in a challenge brought by an 8-year-old British boy and supported by The Unity Project, the High Court ruled that the policy is unlawful. Previously, in response to public pressure and earlier litigation, the government had placed the policy under a lengthy, resource-intensive review for over a year, but the latest court hearing very clearly demonstrates that the policy is still in breach of basic human rights. Another lengthy review will not provide the urgent solutions that communities desperately need and that the public expect.
Long before the pandemic, NRPF restrictions have been pushing working families into abject poverty, forcing them into unsustainable debt and into homelessness or unsafe, overcrowded, insecure housing. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, this situation has considerably worsened. UK guidance has been clear on the need to “stay home, save lives and protect the NHS” but NRPF conditions have made this impossible for most migrants and their families. Without support, people are forced to work in unsafe conditions, cannot remove themselves from unsafe housing, and are unable to both effectively self-isolate and feed their families. Many of those in this situation are the essential workers on whom we all depend. Now, more than ever, it is vital that no one living in the UK is compelled to take on unnecessary, unsafe work at risk to their own or to the public’s health, and it is indefensible for essential workers to be left unsupported and unable to make ends meet.
The current policy, in theory, allows a limited number of people to apply, on an individual basis, to have their NRPF condition removed, but the recent court case highlighted that this is incredibly difficult in practice and does not prevent the kind of abject poverty that Stephen Timms MP highlighted. It is very difficult for families to make the application, and if they do so, they are punished by being moved onto a 10 year visa route with thousands of pounds owed in additional fees. NRPF is only lifted in exceptional circumstances, leaving most people with no such option. Our organisations are inundated by requests for support with the application – hundreds of families without income are unable to make the application, or have been waiting weeks or months for a decision.
We urge you to lift NRPF restrictions swiftly and completely. This is the only way to ensure that people do not have to choose between their and the public health and being able to feed and house their families. Everyone living in the UK, whatever their immigration or employment status must have access to public funds, and to any new funds that are made available to ensure that people can weather this crisis. We are all in this together, but we are only as protected as the least protected amongst us and it is vital that urgent steps are taken to protect and support migrants and their families. We are happy to provide any advice or guidance you or your colleagues may need as you continue to consider this matter.
We look forward to working with you.
Satbir Singh, Chief Executive, JCWI
Caz Hattam, Project Co-ordinator, The Unity Project
Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion, Director of Strategy, Privacy International
Abi Brunswick, Director, Project 17
Ali McGinley, Director, Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees
Bella Sankey, Director, Detention Action
Celia Clarke, Director, Bail for Immigration Detainees
Claudia Holmes, Founder, UKCEN
Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)
Dr Rhetta Moran, Chair, Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research
Dr Zubaida Haque, Interim Director, Runnymede Trust
Ellen Waters, Director of Development, Doctors of the World UK
Fizza Qureshi , CEO, Migrants’ Rights Network
Hazel Williams, Director, NACCOM
Indre Lechtimiakyte, Immigration Adviser, Samphire
Joanne MacInnes, Director West, London Welcome Centre for Refugees and Migrants
Josh Hallam, Field Manager, Help Refugees
Kerry Smith, CEO, Helen Bamber Foundation
Leila Zadeh, Executive Director, UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group
Loraine Masiya Mponela, Chairperson, Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group
Luljeta Nuzi, Shpresa Programme, Citizens UK
Marianne Lagrue, Policy Manager, Coram Children’s Legal Centre
Mark Russell, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society
Maya Esslemont, Director, After Exploitation
Michael Collins, Coordinator, Right to Remain
Nazek Ramadan, Director, Migrant Voice
Nicolas Hatton, CEO, The 3Million
Paul Hook, Director, Asylum Matters
Razia Shariff, CEO, Kent Refugee Action Network
Richard Williams, Chair, Sanctuary on Sea
Rossane Leal, Founder, Refugee Buddy Project
Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council
Sally Daghlian OBE, CEO, Praxis
Sarah Teather, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service
Sian Summers-Rees, Chief Officer, City of Sanctuary
Sophie Neuburg, Executive Director, MedAct
Stephen Hale, CEO, Refugee Action
Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future
Tamsyn Brewster, Co-Founder, RefuAid
Toni Soni, Centre Director, Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre
cc. Secretary of State for the Home Office, Secretary of State for DWP