Author: Jamie Grierson
The home secretary has said he would like to review the ban on asylum seekers working in the UK as they wait for their claims to be decided.
People seeking asylum in the UK are only allowed to work if they have been waiting on a claim for 12 months or more and they can fill a role on the shortage occupation list, which includes positions such as classical ballet dancers and geophysicists.
The Home Office aims to process all initial asylum claims within six months, but in reality nearly half (48%) go beyond that target.
This means people have been essentially banned from working while they wait months, and often years, for a decision on their claim, living on the £5.39 a day the government provides.
Sajid Javid, during the Brexit withdrawal agreement debate in the House of Commons, said there were no plans in place to lift the restrictive rules but he would like to review the ban.
Asked about the ban, he replied: “We currently have no plans to change that arrangement but it is one of the areas I would like to review.”
The Lift the Ban coalition, made up of 80 organisations including non-profit organisations, thinktanks, businesses and faith groups, has been calling on the government to give asylum seekers and their adult dependents the right to work after waiting six months for a decision on their claim, unconstrained by the shortage occupation list.
The proposal has received cross-party support, as well as backing from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses, unions and NGOs.
Stephen Hale, the chief executive of Refugee Action, speaking on behalf of the coalition, said: “This is the beginning of the end for one of Britain’s most insane immigration policies. The ban on work for people seeking asylum does great harm to those it affects, is unpopular with the public, bad for integration, and costs the taxpayer money.
“It’s great news the home secretary is reviewing it. 135 coalition partners will make sure this review rapidly lifts the ban once and for all.”
In a report released in October, the Lift the Ban coalition estimated that if half of the 11,000 asylum seekers aged 18 or over who were waiting for a decision were able to work full-time on the national average wage, the government would receive £31.6m a year from their tax and national insurance contributions (NICs). It would also save £10.8m on the cash support it provides, giving a net boost to the economy of £42m, according to the report.
A relaxing of the ban would bring the UK in line with other countries. No other European country, the US or Canada enforces such a restrictive waiting period.