THOUSANDS of people have signed a petition calling on the UK Government to suspend regulations affecting more than 1.4 million migrants, which bar them from accessing public funds.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and the Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO) said the suspension of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) rules, which are attached to more than a million migrants’ visas, would exclude them from the public safety net. Their call came as JCWI research released yesterday showed a fifth of migrants surveyed, who were working before the pandemic, lost their job since it started and almost 75% were subject to NRPF and could not access government help.

They said the findings indicated a persistent public health risk posed by gaps in the public safety net and a growing risk of destitution amongst migrant families.

JCWI chief executive, Satbir Singh, said: “Almost a year on from the pandemic, it’s a scandal that tens of thousands of families are still excluded from the public safety net which has kept so many of us secure.

“NRPF rules have long plunged people into debt and poverty, but with the rising job losses – under which those with NRPF have disproportionately suffered – an unprecedented number of families now risk destitution.

“Not only does this put lives at risk, and force people into unsafe work, it places undue strain on local authorities who are forced to hastily plug holes in our safety net without adequate resources or support. Preventing people from becoming destitute is better for the public purse than allowing them to reach a point of crisis.”

IRMO director, Lucia Vinzon, added: “Latin American migrants have been severely affected by the pandemic, with 49% out of work. Many have visas with the NRPF condition attached – stripping them of any access to government assistance. Compound this with a lack of employment protection and an optional furlough scheme, and you get high rates of food poverty and destitution.”