Freedom United and nearly 250 other organizations in the Lift the Ban coalition this week called on the U.K. government to end its policy of banning asylum seekers from working.
The Freedom United community, along with our Lift the Ban partners, has added over 180,000 signatures on a petition that was submitted on Wednesday to the Home Office, the British interior ministry.
Under current U.K. law, asylum seekers—including many victims of modern slavery—are barred from working for a year after their initial claim and must rely on a meager government subsidy of £5.66 per day.
Even after the year is up, they are only eligible to work in a few highly specialized positions that are inaccessible to most, leaving many at risk of destitution and exploitation.
The policy has technically been under review by the Home Office since 2018, but with no change two years on, activists and campaigners have reignited their call for action.
Groups such as Refugee Action argue that lifting the ban would benefit all parties, with the British economy currently missing out on tax revenue—and valuable specialists.
A May 2020 “skills audit” of 283 asylum seekers conducted by the Lift the Ban coalition found that at least one-seventh had worked in health or social care in their previous country, while nearly half said with their past occupations they would meet the criteria “critical workers.”
“Right now, right here in the U.K., people seeking refugee status are banned from working while they wait months, and often years, for a decision on their asylum claim,” immigration advocacy group Refugee Action, a key member of the coalition, said in a statement published online on Wednesday. “Instead, they are left to live on just £5.66 per day, struggling to support themselves and their families, whilst the Government wastes the talents of thousands of people.”
“We think that’s wrong. We believe that people who have risked everything to find safety should have the best chance of contributing to our society and integrating into our communities. This means giving people seeking asylum the right to work so that they can use their skills and live in dignity,” organization said.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has only heightened the urgent need for a change in policy, increasing poverty and putting more people at risk of modern slavery.
The government, which has in the past defended the ban as necessary for the separation of economic migrants from asylum seekers, has not yet responded to the petition.
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