In what would be a major departure for the government, senior tories have signalled support to the idea of allowing asylum seekers to work to help tackle the UK’s labour shortage and this would also allow them to integrate into our society and make ‘a positive contribution’ whilst waiting for their claims to be processed.
In the UK there is a sense that we don’t integrate people well enough, if they learn the language and they can work they integrate much better and also make a positive contribution. Prisoners and offenders have been allowed to do volunteering and unpaid work why not encourage them to do paid work where there’s a benefit for the economy and for society. Justice secretary Dominic Raab, in a move that diverts from the Home Office’s current position, said removing the ban on employment for people claiming asylum would allow them to make a ‘positive contribution’. These sentiments have been echoed by Steve Baker, Tory MP and former chair of the European Research Group (ERG) who felt it was ‘madness’ that the Home Office did not permit asylum seekers to work. Asylum seekers in the UK are currently 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. unless their claim takes more than a year for an initial decision and if any delay to their claim was the fault of the government. Conservative MP for Wycombe, Steve Baker echoed Mr Raab’s comments on allowing asylum seekers to work, saying: “Of course people should be allowed to support themselves through work once we have allowed entry pending an asylum decision. “What madness is it that we would hold them in poverty while taking a slow decision. Let them work”. It would of course, also help the UK recover from the pandemic if we allowed almost 64,000 asylum seekers to be employed.
This would also ensure people’s skills aren’t going to waste, and they can earn the money to support themselves, so it helps the taxpayer as well. Given we know three-quarters of asylum seekers are ultimately granted asylum, it helps to make sure they are able to play a useful part in the life of their new home country. It also means they aren’t left on the shelf waiting and their skills as carpenters, teachers or indeed HGV drivers are put to good use. If they are granted the right to work, they can only work in certain professions which are experiencing labour shortages. This would be a wise course of action to create that opportunity as it is already the case in many other countries.
It is believed that the Home Office has been reviewing the right of asylum seekers to work since 2018 ! In December 2018, the then home secretary Sajid Javid told parliament that he would like to review the ban. Asked about asylum seekers’ right to work in July 2019, prime minister Boris Johnson said the Home Office is currently ‘reviewing the matter’ and his government ‘will announce it soon’.
Asked whether such a move could incentivise more people to come to the UK to seek asylum Mr Simmonds said:”I’m not sure there is. We know one of the big issues is that asylum seekers may well be working in the grey economy anyway, and it is right that we should make the most of the opportunity for people to become taxpaying citizens”.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Asylum seeker right to work is a complex issue and is under review. It is crucial we take the time to get this right. We are listening to the arguments and considering the evidence put forward on the issue”.