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Cross-party MPs say asylum seekers should be given right to work after six months

Cross-party MPs say asylum seekers should be given right to work after six months
Eksklusiv: MPs from all main parties say work ban is ‘nonsensical’ and must be ‘urgently lifted’

Cross-party MPs are calling on the Home Office to grant asylum seekers the right to work after six months, saying it is “nonsensical” that there are people in the UK who want to work but are not being permitted to.

Tory MP David Simmonds, along with the Bishop of Durham and MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, have written an open letter stating that the ban on work for people seeking asylum must be “urgently lifted” in order to alleviate the UK’s “recruitment crisis”.

The letter, sett av Den uavhengige, fastslår: “We are united in our belief that asylum seekers whose application has been outstanding for six months should be given permission to work […] It’s common-sense, fiscally responsible, and supports people living here to pull themselves and their families out of poverty.”

For tiden, asylum seekers in the UK are not normally allowed to work while their claims are being considered, and instead have to rely on the Home Office for their accommodation and essential living needs.

Even if they are granted permission, they are usually only allowed to work in jobs on the Shortage Occupation list, which is comprised of skilled, mainly post-graduate professions, which make up only one per cent of the jobs market. Many asylum seekers do not qualify for any of these jobs.

The latest Home Office data shows the backlog in asylum applications is increasing, med 54,040 applications (76 prosent) waiting for an initial decision for more than six months in June 2021 compared to 22,187 (54 prosent) i juni 2019.

Separate figures obtained by Den uavhengige earlier this year shows that over 1,200 asylum seekers currently in the system have waited more than five years for a decision, med 399 more than a decade.

Research carried out by the Lift the Ban coalition – which includes businesses, economic think tanks, recruitment firms, trade unions and refugee organisations – estimates that removing the ban would save the economy about £181m per year.

Referencing the fact that many wait for more than five years, the letter states: “That is five years that they are not allowed to work and five years that they are forced to rely on asylum support. In the meantime we have a recruitment crisis.

“Asylum seekers will not solve this crisis but it seems nonsensical that in these times, there are people in this country who want to work and we are not permitting them.”

The MPs also warn that people are kept in a “state of limbo” and “constant anxiety” while they await the outcome of their application.

“We need to be thinking about the integration of refugees as soon as they make their asylum application, it cannot be something that is considered after they have languished in the asylum process for months on end or even years,” they say.

“Work strengthens people’s chances of being able to integrate into their new communities, live in dignity and make the most of their potential. It makes them less vulnerable to forced labour, exploitation and modern slavery.”

I desember 2018, the-then home secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament that he would like to review the ban on work for asylum seekers. When asked about asylum seekers’ right to work in July 2019, prime minister Boris Johnson said the Home Office was currently “reviewing that matter” and that his government would be “making an announcement shortly”.

november i fjor, the-then immigration minister Chris Philp said a review was “ongoing” and that he would “report back as soon as [the Home Office was] able to complete it”.

derimot, when asked if the department was looking into the matter during an evidence session with the Home Affairs Select Committee last Thursday, second permanent secretary for the Home Office, Tricia Hayes, said there were “no plans” to do so.

The Home Office later told Den uavhengige Ms Hayes had “misspoken” and that the review was in fact “ongoing” – but campaigners expressed concern that her response indicated the department was not taking it seriously.

A Home Office spokesperson said that to allow asylum seekers the right to work sooner than 12 months would “encourage economic migrants to take dangerous journeys, putting lives at risk and enriching heinous people smuggling gangs”.

But the MPs’ letter states that while granted asylum seekers the right to work may be a “pull factor” for more people to claim asylum, “very weak” claims would be decided before six months and those people would therefore not be granted permission to work.

“The UK is currently an outlier in enforcing a 12 month wait period for work and then placing strong restrictions on which employment can be taken up, the UK would purely be introducing conditions akin to our European neighbours,” the letter adds.