Lift the Ban MP action -

Lift the Ban: give survivors the right to work & live in dignity

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Watch people on the streets of London share their thoughts on granting people seeking asylum the right to work.

Instead of focusing on their recovery, the current UK system means after leaving situations of modern slavery, some victims go on to be exploited again. This is because their only option is to seek asylum in the UK, which prevents them from working and moving forward with their lives.

We are already campaigning to urge the government to introduce a new law to guarantee support for 12 months but in the meantime, victims of modern slavery going through the asylum system are at risk of being retrafficked and exploited in conditions of modern slavery by unscrupulous employers who use victims’ precarious immigration status and threats of reporting them to the authorities as a means of control.

That’s why we’ve joined a coalition of organizations asking the UK government to allow people seeking asylum the right to work, empowering victims to be independent and able to focus on recovery ­– instead of relying on the meager government subsistence payment of £39.60 per week.

In 2019, the UK government dropped its target of issuing initial decisions on claims within six months.1 Today, only one third of asylum applications receive an initial decision within one year.2

During this time, not being allowed to work and forced to rely on government support of just £5.65 per day to survive leaves people seeking asylum vulnerable to exploitation.

After a person has waited over a year for their asylum status, they can apply for the right to work but even in these cases, individuals are restricted to seeking employment from the Government’s Shortage Occupation List. Highly-skilled professional jobs on this list including ‘classical ballet dancer’ and ‘nuclear medicine practitioner’ means that for most people seeking asylum it’s impossible to find jobs they qualify for.3

For victims of trafficking who are seeking asylum on the basis that it is not safe to return to their country of origin, the inability to work and no legal means to adequate financial support can seriously impact their chances of recovery and can even lead to being retrafficked.

Traffickers use this vulnerability and fear of being reported to authorities to trap people in exploitative work conditions and forms the basis on which they are able to exploit workers in forced labor through withholding wages, abuse, threats and restricting a persons’ movement. Few cases are ever reported to the police because of fear of deportation.

Pascual, Frank, John, Asanne, Gojo, Parviz and Tino all experienced having their wages withheld.

Tino met a contact at his church who managed to find him work on a construction site. Tino worked hard for no pay and eventually confronted the site manager to demand his wages only to find that Tino’s contact had been paid – not Tino himself.

Tino said “So when he found out that… I am the one who contact that company then he was now threatening me… Saying he’s going to get me, he’s going to tell the Home Office that I’ve been working illegally when I’m not allowed to be working.”4

Pascual worked in poultry processing and described his experience, “We keep quiet, we didn’t say anything, they told us the first week the system in Britain no pay. So we will pay you the following week and we accepted … every day we keep doing the same job and it’s not easy job because this is a killing, killing the body. Plenty, plenty chickens imagine per minute you have to pack it very quick otherwise them, they come and shout at you as well if you not doing very well.”5

Through banning people seeking asylum from working, the UK is lagging behind international standards and putting people at risk of trafficking and exploitation through prolonged poverty. The UK’s one-year wait policy is the most stringent in Europe and is not line with any other European country.6 People seeking asylum in other European countries wait between one day and 9 months before they are granted the right to work, with the majority of European countries granting the right to work in six months or less. In Sweden, asylum seekers have the right to work after just one day of entering the country.

You, our community, told us that you strongly support asylum seekers’ right to work, with 89% of survey responders agreeing with introducing a law to lift the ban on asylum seekers’ right to work as they await the outcome of their claim.7

Together we can show the UK that we support survivors of modern slavery and that they should grant people seeking asylum the right to work and live in dignity.

Watch Catherine name lots of reasons why the UK should lift the ban in just one minute!

  • October 2021: The High Court ruled the Home Office’s policy which restricts asylum seekers’ right to work is unlawful. This comes after a senior government official stated that the Home Office is not reviewing the ban on their right to work, contradicting government policy. Read more here.

  • October 19, 2020: We’re getting ready to hand in the petition to the UK Home Office on Wednesday October 21. Sign the petition today and make sure your name is included!

  • July 30, 2020: Lift The Ban’s updated report is now available to read here. Freedom United joins over 200 organizations calling on the U.K. to use common sense and grant all people seeking asylum the right to work.

  • June 8, 2020: The UK interior ministry announced an almost negligible increase of just £1.85 a week to support for people seeking asylum. This is does nothing to support people facing destitution. We continue to demand that the UK #LiftTheBan immediately.

Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.


Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

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Annie Bevis
Annie Bevis
2 years ago

These people are not criminal. They are migrants. Huge difference. They deserve to

lawrence forrester
lawrence forrester
2 years ago

Sadly, refusing to allow refugees to work is part of the ‘hostile environment ‘ that Patel and Johnson maintain. By forcing asylum seekers to exist on pitiful handouts and suffer the humiliation of poverty they hope to deter further migration. The strategy closely resembles that of the 19th Century Workhouse system where those who were truly desperate were forced to endure the most painful and humiliating circumstances in order to dissuade others from wanting to enter the ‘Bastilles’.

Ask your MP to support calls to Lift the Ban!


Step 1: Find your MP’s Twitter handle and email address by typing in your postcode here.

Step 2: Copy and paste the message below into your email to send a message to your MP.

Step 3: Don’t forget to let us know you took action by completing the form below the template email!


Dear [insert name] MP,

I am writing as a constituent who believes that people seeking asylum in the UK should be treated with dignity. Many people in the asylum system are forced to wait months and often years for a decision on their asylum claim, and I believe it is crucial that those people are granted permission to work so they are able to support themselves and avoid destitution while living here.

For survivors of trafficking who are seeking asylum on the basis that it is not safe to return to their country of origin, the inability to work and no legal means to adequate financial support can seriously impact their chances of recovery.

The Lift the Ban campaign, is calling for the right to work be granted to asylum seekers and their adult dependants after six months of having lodged an asylum claim or further submission, unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List.

The campaign recently released new research showing how lifting these restrictions would benefit people seeking asylum and the UK more widely.

The Lift the Ban campaign has shown that the policy is supported by 81% of the UK public, and would:

  • produce an estimated economic boost of £97.8m through increased tax revenues and savings on asylum support payments
  • allow people to live in dignity and support themselves using the skills and experience they have already acquired (94% of those surveyed by Lift the Ban said they want to be able to work, and 45% reported having had previous occupations that would fall into the category of ‘critical worker’ during the Covid-19 pandemic)
  • improve community cohesion, strengthening people’s chances of being able to integrate into their new communities

Despite all this, the Home Office has had the policy under review since December 2018, with no end in sight. As a constituent, I’m asking whether you will support this important campaign and write to the Home Secretary to call for urgent reform.

Will you help?

Yours sincerely,

[Insert name]

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