For asylum seekers, trying to find work in another country is very difficult. Not only is there often a language barrier and reams of paperwork, but there is also the fact that government systems canencourage exploitation.
Asylum seekers in the UK receive £37.75 a week to live on, and most are prohibited from working. But this small amount of money often fails to allow people to meet their basic needs. This leads some to search for work to supplement their income. But herein lies the problem, as the only people willing to employ them are those happy to do so illegally. This leaves asylum seekers with no bargaining power to negotiate reasonable pay or working conditions.
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Yet the risk of exploitation does not end with a positive asylum decision. Refugees are often dispersed out of London and the south-east to other areas in the UK. The areas of dispersal are determined by the availability of temporary housing. In many cases, this is concentrated around areas of economic deprivation.
This risk is exacerbated by the delays in receiving important documentscommonly experienced by refugees. And when government support ends but their national insurance numbers have not yet arrived, refugees are vulnerable. They have no income and no way to access welfare or legitimate work. This leaves them with little choice but to seek work with people willing to employ them illegally.
Prime minister Theresa May has vowed to help rid the world of the “barbaric evil of modern slavery”. And the adoption of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 was applauded by many. It helped to position the UK as a global leader in this field.