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Source: Alamy

Migrants crossing the Channel

Thousands of migrants have no regular access to food because of laws banning them from public funds, according to a new policy briefing from the Food Foundation.

It cited figures from Citizens Advice showing nearly 1.4 million people, including 175,000 babies and children, were affected by an immigration policy that puts them at greater risk of food poverty.

Current rules means many migrants should have “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF), which includes most benefits.

However, the foundation, which drew on research from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care (CRIPACC), said it had left families at risk of long-term destitution.

It said urgent action was needed to tackle the “prolonged misery” caused by the lack of a reliable safety net and legal access to work, both of which would help to ensure migrants are properly fed and housed.

One of the people interviewed by the researchers had been living without access to public funds for 17 years. Others who were interviewed for the report described substandard and overcrowded housing with no cooking facilities and enforced regular moves.

The foundation said asylum seekers, who are seeking safety in the UK, are one of the groups barred from accessing public funds.

It said there had been no government efforts to examine the impact or extent of lack of access to food caused by this policy, despite figures showing the number of people with NRPF status being referred to food banks has increased by up to 4% since the pandemic.

“Although migrants invariably make a positive contribution to society, many are placed into conditions of prolonged misery,” said Food Foundation executive director Anna Taylor.

“One of the primary objectives of the Food Foundation is to raise awareness of the need for a healthy, nutritious diet for everyone and that includes migrants. As well as access to food, people need access to housing and work. We hope government policy advisors will take to heart the findings of this report and move swiftly to ensure a safety net is put in place.”