The refugee crisis throughout Europe has brought to light the treatment of asylum seekers in the UK. It’s an area of immigration that many people know very little about, and the media is unfortunately not quick to set the record straight. The treatment of asylum seekers who come to settle in the UK was taken to parliament for debate by Scottish MP, Alison Thewliss. The area she was specifically concerned about: asylum seekers’ right to work.
Many people don’t know that asylum seeker’s aren’t allowed to work while awaiting the outcome of their applications. Instead, they must rely on Government support in the form of accommodation and support payments. Many asylum seekers are expected to survive on just £5 a day, yet a study found that if just one quarter of asylum seekers were allowed to accept paid employment, it would save the government tens of millions of pound.
The Right To Work was withdrawn by the Labour Government in 2002, and the Immigration Act of 2016 has put further restrictions on the rights of asylum seekers. Thewliss highlighted the need to address this issue in an article on Huffington Post in which she said: “this debate is urgently needed to refocus on the core reason why people apply for asylum – to seek protection outside their home country when all other options are exhausted.”
What is more worrying is that unpaid work is also discouraged, as was highlighted in the case of one of Thewliss’ constituents. She explained: “The Home Office has held that against one of my constituents, whom I had intended to mention later, who was volunteering for the British Red Cross. When he applied for naturalisation as a British citizen, that was held against him as a means of demonstrating bad character.” It is worrying that these individuals aren’t able work, even in voluntary positions, as Thewliss highlights: “ The very least we should do as a nation is give them a means of living in dignity, and I believe, as I will lay out, that there are circumstances in which they should have the right to work.”
At the moment, an asylum seeker is only allowed to seek paid work if they have been waiting for a decision for over a year, and even then, they can only work in roles that appear on the Shortage Occupation List.