Hackney migrants hit hard by Covid-19 crisis
- Credit: Hackney Migrant Centre
Migrants already struggling with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) have been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most national migrants not from the European Economic Area (non-EEA) with temporary permission to remain in the UK have NRPF, which means they cannot access benefits or mainstream housing support.
It applies to undocumented migrants, people ‘subject to immigration control’ with limited leave to remain, spousal visas and student visas.
Daf Viney, director of services at the Hackney Migrant Centre, told the Gazette: “People who are [usually] working doing jobs in bars, cleaning, hairdressing or any of the many jobs people have been laid off from – they don’t have any fall-back options. They can’t access universal credit or leave the UK.
“So, a lot of people are stuck and don’t have any income at all.”
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The centre and other organisations have tried to put pressure on the government to lift NRPF restrictions and a recent high court ruling on May 7 stated, in the case of an 8 year-old British boy supported by his migrant mother, that the policy which denies families access to welfare services is unlawful.
In a recent report published by the centre on April 21 it welcomed the news on April 6 that eligibility for free school meals would now include many children from families with NRPF but states the extension “still excludes thousands of extremely vulnerable children from undocumented families”. The centre has also sent a letter out to head teachers to ensure schools in the area know about the change in eligibility.
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The NRPF stipulation applies to people ‘subject to immigration control’ with limited leave to remain, spousal visas and student visas. It also applies to undocumented migrants.
There is no available data on the number of children affected by no recourse to public funds but The Children’s Society found that between 2013-15 over 50,000 individuals with dependents were granted leave to remain with NRPF conditions.
According to government data, 15.3 per cent of children in London state schools were claiming free school meals in 2018 meanwhile 37 pc of children were estimated to be growing up in poverty.
But Daf says one of the good things which has happened during the Covid-19 pandemic is that people facing homelessness with the NRPF stipulation are now offered accommodation, however, many rough sleepers must still leave their hotels in search of food.
“One of the people we are working with was rough sleeping on a bus with Covid-19 symptoms. He was left sleeping for two days on the bus before he was given accommodation but even after he was provided accommodation he wasn’t provided with any food - so he ended up wandering the streets that weekend trying to find free food from somewhere.”
The lockdown has affected the centre “massively” so it has set up two services to replace its weekly Wednesday drop-in.
It’s now offering a remote advice line where people can book an appointment on a Monday to access advice on immigration, housing, poverty relief and healthcare every Wednesday.
They also now have a collective care team supporting vulnerable people in Hackney and have set up a fundraiser to keep vital services running.
Daf told the Gazette about the fundraiser:“It’s going great but the money’s not going to last forever.
“We’re spending that money quite quickly at the moment and we have no idea how long this lockdown’s going to last. What’s almost certainly going to happen is, when it’s eased for everybody else, the vulnerable and elderly people we’re working with are still going to have to be isolated in some kind of way. So that support is going to continue for quite a while.”
To donate to Hackney Migrant Centre visit https://hackneymigrantcentre.org.uk/donate/
To read it’s report on NRPF and free school meals click here.
For more info on the centre’s campaign for free school meals for all children click here.
Or to find more groups, networks and organisations like this in Hackney providing support during the Coronavirus lockdown visit our There With You Essential List.