Coronavirus: Government urged to end restrictions on financial help for immigrants

Abigail Fenton
·3-min read
Scotland and local councilc have had to accomodate homeless people and those staying in night shelters, with no support from the UK goverment. Photo: Ev/Unsplash

Scottish ministers are calling on Westminster to “do the right thing” and suspend restrictions that deny financial help to some immigrants that have moved to the UK.

The Scottish government is calling on the home office to end “harmful” no recourse to public funds (NRPF) provisions during the coronavirus crisis.

Immigration laws state currently that someone will have “no recourse to public funds” if they are “subject to immigration control.”

But the COVID-19 pandemic has seen homeless people and those staying in night shelters moved to hotels and other more suitable accommodation — with the Scottish government, local authorities and others picking up the costs.

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As well as calling for NRPF provisions to be suspended, the Scottish government is also wanting to recoup those costs.

Ministers have written to UK immigration minister Chris Philp on a number of occasions after spending, with local government and the third sector, a total of £600,000 ($757349) on accommodation — and a further £275,000 basic living costs.

But the Scottish Government said it is yet to receive a response.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “The Scottish government is not prepared to abandon some of the most vulnerable in our society at a time when they need our help the most.

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“The economic impacts of the pandemic are pushing thousands of people further into poverty and hindering their work opportunities. However, thanks to a rapid and coordinated response in Scotland, we have been able to accommodate people who would otherwise be facing destitution, so that they can protect themselves and others during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Many of those restricted by the UK government’s harmful NRPF policy who were previously sleeping rough or in unsuitable night shelters are now being supported in hotels and other self-contained accommodation.

“But the Scottish government, local authorities and third sector have had to pick up the tab, without additional support from the UK government,” he added.

“So I am again asking that the UK government do the right thing and immediately lift the restrictions of NRPF for the duration of the coronavirus crisis on public health grounds. Furthermore, the money spent just to ensure that everyone in our society is treated fairly and equitably must be repaid.”

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A government spokesperson told the Press Association: “We have been very clear that nobody should find themselves destitute during this crisis due to circumstances beyond their control.

“Extensive action to support those with no recourse to public funds has been taken, such as rent protections, the job retention scheme, the self-employed income support scheme, allocating more than £3.2bn to local authorities and £750m for charities to support the most vulnerable.”