Asylum Seekers - Right to Work
Asylum Seekers - Right to Work

The UK has a proud history of helping people fleeing violence and persecution. Sheffield is proud of its welcoming and open tradition as the UK’s first city of sanctuary. As people are driven from their homes in the most desperate circumstances, the UK must always stand with those seeking safety. Unfortunately, I believe the Government’s approach to this long-standing obligation has been lacking in competence and compassion.

As you know, asylum seekers are currently not allowed to work in the UK unless, through no fault of their own, a decision has not been made on their claim for at least 12 months. Even then, they are restricted to jobs on the shortage occupation list.

I fully support the Lift the Ban campaign and its call for asylum seekers to be able to work, unconstrained by the shortage occupation list, if they have been waiting longer than six months for a decision on their claim. 

I believe giving this right to asylum seekers – who are often skilled and able to work – would not only improve their mental health but enhancing opportunities for integration into their new communities.

Unfortunately, the UK is a global outlier in the time taken to give people in the asylum system the right for work. Ireland, Hungary, France, the United States and Poland, to name just a few, all have a much swifter process. I believe this also highlights the troubling delays in our asylum system too. As of 31 December 2021, 48,680 asylum seekers (57%) had been waiting more than six months to receive an initial decision on their claim. Real people suffer when it takes too long to decide their claim, or when inaccurate decisions are made.

For all these reasons, myself and my Labour colleagues recently supported an amendment to the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill that would allow people seeking asylum to be granted permission to work after six months. I am pleased to say that this amendment was successful, meaning that MPs will get an opportunity to vote on it when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.

I believe it is time we treated people in our asylum system with dignity and as people with unrecognised potential to contribute to our society. I will continue to press for a more streamlined and fairer asylum system that is in the national interest.

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