11 November 1999
What: The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 is designed to completely overhaul the UK’s immigration system. Changes include replacing welfare benefits for asylum seekers with vouchers worth £35 a week for an adult; and providing accommodation on a no-choice basis around the United Kingdom through forced dispersal. Section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 states that a person will have ‘no recourse to public funds’ if they are ‘subject to immigration control’. This means they have no entitlement to the majority of welfare benefits, including income support, housing benefit and a range of allowances and tax credits. In 2012, Theresa May [then Home Secretary] expanded it to include even those who moved here to live with their British families.
Why significant: No recourse to public funds (NRPF) is one of many important examples of how welfare is weaponised against specific groups, in this instance against people seeking asylum. The harms of NRPF are well documented, including being linked to people’s deaths (such as the death of Mercy Baguma). This Act comes more than a decade before similar measures were introduced in the Welfare Reform Act 2012, including the bedroom tax, and the reduction in benefits for disabled citizens (Yeo, 2017).