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Chancellor must scrap migrant welfare curbs in budget, campaigners call

Migrant and refugee rights organisations warn failure to do so would see an unprecedented number of families fall into destitution

RISHI SUNAK must scrap migrant welfare curbs in the upcoming Budget or risk driving an unprecedented number of families into destitution, campaigners warned today. 

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and the Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO) urged the Chancellor today to drop the “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF) rule, which excludes an estimated 1.4 million people from accessing state support. 

The call comes as the JCWI published new research suggesting that one in four migrants have lost their job during the pandemic.

Of those who became unemployed, 75 per cent are affected by the NRPF rule, which prevents them accessing most social security benefits and social housing. 

The rule has been blamed for increasing destitution among migrant communities during lockdown as the recently unemployed are left “with nothing to weather the storm,” the report said.   

Of those who lost their job, 41 per cent worked in the hospitality industry, a sector with a high proportion of migrant workers. 

The JCWI research, which involved surveys from 310 respondents between December 2020 and January 2021, also found that the NRPF rule affected migrants’ ability to self-isolate. 

Half of those surveyed said they would not be able to self-isolate at home if they were suffering Covid-19 symptoms because they would have no support if they took time off work. 

JCWI chief executive Satbir Singh said: “NRPF rules have long plunged people into debt and poverty, but with the rising job losses — under which those with NRPF have disproportionately suffered — an unprecedented number of families now risk destitution. 

“Any road map to recovery must include suspending NRPF. No family should be going hungry or sleeping rough because of where they were born.”

Job losses among Latin American migrants in London have been even higher, with almost half now unemployed, IRMO director Lucia Vinzon said, adding that most are subject to the NRPF rule. 

“Compound this with a lack of employment protection and an optional furlough scheme, and you get high rates of food poverty and destitution,” she said. “Now, more than ever, the NRPF condition must be scrapped.”

The government has faced repeated calls to suspend the criteria throughout the pandemic from campaign groups and MPs. 

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel has refused to lift the ban, instead announcing earlier last year that migrants could apply for an exemption to the rule. 

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