Stephen: "Asylum seekers must be given the right to work"

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Stephen has shown his support for the “Lift The Ban” campaign at an event in Parliament. The campaign calls on the government to give asylum seekers the right to work from six months after their claim for asylum has been submitted.

Under current government policy, asylum seekers are only able to apply for the right to work after they have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for over a year. Even then, individuals granted the right to work have their employment restricted to professions on the Government’s Shortage Occupation list. In the meantime, asylum seekers claim ‘Asylum Support – which amounts to £5.39 per day - whilst they wait for a decision on their application.

The event featured remarks by refugees Nahla and Teem, who shared their experiences of the asylum seeking process, as well as Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary of Unison, and Tom Barrett, Senior Policy Advisor at CBI. Stephen Hale, the Chief Executive of Refugee Action, emphasised that this issue was one of allowing people seeking asylum to live in dignity. A report released by the coalition has highlighted the impact the current restriction is having on asylum seekers who are being forced into destitution through lack of an income. Over half of asylum seekers they surveyed (54%) have had to use a food bank in the last year.

It is thought that giving asylum seekers the right to work would be worth over £42 million to the UK economy. The policy change is popular with the public too: a recent study by thinktank British Future finding that 71% of the public support the right to work after 6 months.

Speaking after the event, Stephen said: “As of September this year, there were 585 supported asylum seekers living in Newham. Of these, many have been waiting on their Home Office application for many months, or even years.

“Having heard powerful testimonies from asylum seekers today – and in my advice surgeries too – it strikes me as deeply unjust that individuals who have often undergone significant trauma before coming to the UK, and who are willing, able and skilled, are denied the right to work.”