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Charities and churches call for a lift of 'No Recourse to Public Funds' restriction

The Guardian has published an article highlighting the charity sector and churches call for restrictions to be lifted amid warning of 'dire circumstances' for migrants in pandemic.

Individuals with insecure immigration status are subjected to the “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF) policy. This means that they are not allowed to access benefits, have no permission to work, don't receive support from the council and aren't provided housing from the Home Office. This puts these individuals in a very vulnerable position in daily life, let alone during a pandemic that requires them to self-isolate inside. Unless they receive support from charities or their community, they are destitute.

We are wholeheartedly behind the call that "All migrants, asylum seekers and refugees must be given temporary leave to remain in Britain to rescue them from exploitation, destitution and homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic."

Thankfully, Bristol’s Mayor announced on the 26th March that our city would be accommodating everyone, including those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF). Unfortunately, referrals have stalled - we know of at least 30 referrals from the sector but only six people have been accommodated, one of those was a destitute asylum seeker connected to BHN. I believe it is because our members are not being recognised as rough sleepers, even though they are all in precarious accommodation (sofa-surfing, sleeping at a friends' house temporarily etc). Our hosts are doing an amazing job accommodating our destitute asylum seeker members, but these are temporary provisions and we have already had to move around seven out of 19 members during the lockdown because of this. 

We are very thankful to the Bristol City Council for all their hard work during this very challenging and difficult time, but due to a severe lack of central funding for local authorities across the UK, they just aren't able to meet the real and very urgent need. This isn't just our problem - it is everyone's problem. COVID-19 doesn't discriminate and so everyone should be enabled to follow government guidelines during this time.

Lizzie Briggs, Director of BHN


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