I absolutely share your concerns about our current asylum system and its lack of transparency and accountability.
The ‘Waiting in the Dark’ report by Refugee Action finds that the asylum system dehumanises, disempowers and damages those who rely on it. The report highlights how people are often waiting more than six months, sometimes years, for a decision on their asylum claim.
Indeed, for the year ending June 2018, there were 10,707 asylum applications pending initial decision for more than six months. This is concerning, as real people suffer when the Home Office takes too long to decide a claim. The Government should urgently implement a streamlined system that assesses claims fairly, in a timely way, and treats asylum seekers humanely.
Currently, asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK unless their claim has been outstanding for at least 12 months through no fault of their own, whereas those granted refugee status have unrestricted rights to work in the UK. If granted permission to work, asylum seekers are restricted to jobs on the Shortage Occupation List.
Asylum seekers should be allowed to work, unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List. This is the right thing to do and the humane thing to do.
The Immigration Minister has stated that legal aid is available for individuals claiming asylum and that a review of recent legal aid reforms is currently underway, with findings set to be published later this year. However, legal aid advice deserts have emerged, and vulnerable people may forgo their right to justice as a result of legal aid centres becoming too inaccessible.
I agree with you about the importance of access to education. Learning English is a vital first step in staving off isolation and loneliness, and refugees must be able to access the classes they are entitled to. Further Education courses should be free at the point of use, including English for Speakers of Other Languages courses.
As requested I have written to the Home Secretary and I will contact you again as soon as I have received a response.
I will continue to press for a fairer and more humane asylum and immigration system.