The Nationality and Borders Bill risks exposing significantly more migrants to destitution and exploitation
The Bill will remove a large part of the social safety net within the asylum system by denying migrants access to public funds. We are determined to make the case for a fairer and more efficient immigration system.
As the Nationality and Borders Bill makes its way through Parliament, this feels like a timely moment for reflection. Although we have different perspectives on many issues, we both recognise that the immigration system must prioritise fairness for all British taxpayers.
As a cross-party group of parliamentarians with a desire for a fair and efficient immigration system, we note that the public have broad support for migrants in our country. This is due, in part, to the recognition that many of the key workers who have kept our country running during these difficult times are people who have come to the UK in search of safety and with a desire to contribute to their new surroundings.
We recognise that in the lead up to this Bill, the support offered to migrants has been increased in response to the increased need. People with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), which includes almost all migrants with temporary permission to remain in the UK, have been included in the support provided through the Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Free school meals have been extended to children from families with NRPF in some cases. Local authorities have been asked to house all rough sleepers during the pandemic through the Everyone In scheme.
Many people are still subject to no recourse to public funds and therefore still in a precarious situation
In May 2020, when people at risk of destitution were permitted to apply to have their NRPF status lifted, there was a huge increase in the numbers who did so, and the high grant rate by the Home Office has helped thousands of people. Despite this flexibility, and increased support we know that many people are still subject to NRPF and therefore still in a precarious situation.
People with NRPF are different from asylum seekers, who receive financial support whilst waiting for the outcome of their claim, and refugees, who have full access to welfare support once their status has been granted. People with NRPF do not have access to benefits, even if they have been paying into the system through their taxes.
We are concerned that the Nationality and Borders Bill and other recent changes in immigration policy will significantly increase the number of people who are subject to NRPF and thereby exposed to destitution and exploitation.
The Bill will introduce a two-tier system where any refugee reaching this country who has not benefited from a place on a resettlement programme may have their claim deemed inadmissible and be expelled to another country, or eventually granted a temporary status with restricted rights to family reunification and financial support. Refugees granted temporary protection will also be subject to NRPF conditions.
Our concern is that this will remove a large part of the social safety net within the asylum system. For many people, denying migrants access to public funds might appear a firm and fair approach to immigration. After all, it is a long and well-established principle, introduced and maintained under successive governments of different political stripes.
NRPF may look like it saves money, but the reality is that it does not. At present, migrants who become destitute often receive emergency support from a different pot of money because of the statutory duty of local authorities to support vulnerable adults and families with children in their jurisdiction.
A fairer and more efficient system would ensure that decisions made by the Home Office about a person’s migration status are paid for by central government funds, as opposed to being shunted to the already stretched resources of local councils.
We have learnt a lot over the past twelve months but there is still much to learn about how we can best support everyone in our country. As the Nationality and Borders Bill goes through the legislative process, we are determined to make the case for a fairer and more efficient solution to prevent people from experiencing destitution in the UK.
David Simmonds is the Conservative MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner and chair of the APPG on Migration. Neil Coyle is the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark and secretary of the APPG on Migration.
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