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Citizens Advice: Immigration rules stop people getting support during coronavirus pandemic


Report reveals almost 1.4 million people have no recourse to public funds

Date of Publication:
29 June 2020

Citizens Advice: Immigration rules stop people getting support during coronavirus pandemic

29 June 2020

Citizens Advice last week published new research looking at how immigration rules are preventing people from getting the support they need during the Covid-19 pandemic.

CA LogoThe 13-page report is here.

It explains: "The coronavirus pandemic has had an especially severe effect on migrants in the UK. Tens of thousands of migrants - as well as their British family members - face destitution, difficult choices about returning to work, huge future costs relating to their immigration status, and the prospect of loved ones being forced to leave the UK."

Citizens Advice is especially concerned about the impact of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition imposed on migrants. New research carried out for the report by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford suggests that up to 1.376 million people in the UK have NRPF.

Citizens Advice says it has seen a 110% increase in the number of people needing advice on issues related to NRPF during the coronavirus pandemic.

The report adds: "Our data on immigration and benefits also mirrors national data demonstrating the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on people of colour. In the 12 months to 1 May 2020, 82% of Citizens Advice clients who came to us for advice about NRPF and non-EU migrants' access to benefits - where we have seen a 110% rise in enquiries - were people of colour. 32% of clients were Asian, 31% were black and 19% were from another ethnic minority background."

Citizens Advice recommends that NRPF should be lifted for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

"The revelation that almost 1.4 million people have no recourse to public funds is shocking. Without the security of the welfare safety net, many have faced and will continue to face impossible choices concerning their health and that of their families.

"The government must suspend NRPF rules for the duration of the pandemic. People of colour have already been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Migrants who are overwhelmingly from Black, Asian or from other minority ethnic backgrounds backgrounds should not have to take unnecessary risks as lockdown is reduced. Anyone experiencing hardship caused by the pandemic should not see any impact on their long-term immigration status.

"The government has provided some measures to support people with NRPF, such as making them eligible for the Job Retention Scheme and providing emergency funding to councils. Despite this, we are seeing significant increases in the numbers of people seeking our help."

Citizens Advice is also concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on EEA migrants.

The report notes: "EEA nationals living in the UK have to prove that they are eligible to receive benefits. If an EEA national has been living in the UK for 5 years or more, they can apply for settled status. This automatically means they have a right to reside and should be able to access benefits. However, our evidence forms show that clients with settled status are still regularly being rejected for benefits in error by the DWP."

Citizens Advice recommends that the Habitual Residence Test should be temporarily suspended from the application process for benefits such as Universal Credit.

The report also recommends the suspension of the minimum income requirement and the maintenance and accommodation requirements for all those renewing family visas.