"Migrants, including refugees, face so many difficulties getting to this country and then face a government-created 'hostile environment' once here" Cllr Sue Lukes, Islington Council's Migrants Champion
Cllr Sue Lukes, Islington Council

This week, 15 June, to 21 June, is Refugee Week and Islington Labour is proud to celebrate the many refugees who have made Islington their home, as well as the amazing work our Labour-run Council has done to make it one of the most welcoming boroughs in the country for refugees.

In Islington, we are proud of our rich and inclusive history of welcoming and celebrating migrants to our borough.

Islington has long been a place where migrants and refugees have settled. The borough is central, accommodation has often been cheap and there is a history of tolerance – Finsbury was the first UK constituency to elect a South Asian MP – Dadabhai Naoroji in 1892.  Islington today is an especially diverse place with 33% of residents born outside of the United Kingdom compared to 14% nationally.

However, one of the hardest obstacles migrants face when they come to the UK is the Government’s No Recourse to Public Funds policy. Remarkably, when quizzed about it in Parliament recently, the Prime Minister seemed to have no idea it exists.

Many Islington people struggle with this policy. They are legally in the UK, often with British children, but are barred from many welfare benefits, including income support, housing benefit and a range of allowances and tax credits. This has been particularly hard during the Coronavirus crisis because people have lost their jobs and homes through no fault of their own.

Islington’s Labour-run Council is determined to do everything in its power to help all our residents, no matter their NRPF status, especially during the Coronavirus crisis.

Since mid-March the Council has accommodated 37 new households with no recourse to public funds, representing over a year’s intake of new cases in only weeks. As of last month, the Council is supporting and accommodating 66 households with no recourse to public funds because they have children or adults with care needs, including families and adults with care needs accommodated.

The NRPF team is also working with people who were street homeless and are now accommodated to achieve a sustainable ‘step-down’ outcome to their situation of destitution, for example, through accessing legal advice, although challenges achieving this are outlined below. Additional case-working support has been provided through the Council’s redeployment pool.

We know there is much more to do. Council Leader Richard Watts and Executive Member for Communities Una O’Halloran wrote to the Government last month to call on the NRPF policy to be suspended and to offer support to migrants in need.

We have also signed the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants’ letter calling on the Government to protect migrants during the Covid-19 crisis.

Cllr O’Halloran said:

“We have a proud history of welcoming and supporting migrants to Islington. They have made a positive contribution to our borough and will always be welcome.

“However, the Government’s NRPF policy is cruel and leaves many migrants without access to vital support. As a Council, we are doing all we can to help but the Government must abolish NRPF immediately.”

Cllr Sue Lukes, Islington Council’s Migrants Champion, said:

“I am proud to be our borough’s Migrants Champion. Migrants, including refugees, face so many difficulties getting to this country and then face a government-created ‘hostile environment’ once here.  If they make the UK their home, they should have access to the same support as everyone else when they need it, but they cannot due to the NRPF restriction. So my heart goes out to families struggling to feed their children under these conditions.

“It is unacceptable and unfair. The Government needs to remove NRPF provision and help some of our most in-need neighbours.”

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