180,000 sign petition to stop ban on asylum seekers getting jobs

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More than 180,000 people are calling on the Government to lift the UK’s ban on asylum seekers from working.

A group of ‘human statues’ dressed as workers from different professions appeared in Westminster, London yesterday ahead of the submitting the ‘Lift The Ban’ petition to the Home Office.

People seeking asylum in the UK cannot work while they wait – often years – for a decision on their application.

Campaigners are asking for people seeking asylum to have the right to work if they have been waiting more than six months for a decision on their claim.

More than 240 businesses, think tanks, trade unions, faith groups and refugee organisations are supporting the call for change.

Mariam Kemple Hardy, head of campaigns at Refugee Action, said: ‘Giving people seeking asylum the right to work is just common sense.

‘It’s harmful to people in the asylum system and it’s harmful to the UK. Most of us would rather work to support ourselves and our families, to contribute to the economy and the country, and improve our skills and wellbeing.

‘The Government must listen to the hundreds of organisations and hundreds of thousands of people and lift the ban on people seeking asylum from working.

‘Public support for this change in policy has continued to grow over the past year, with a petition calling for the ban to be lifted receiving more than 150,000 signatures and the backing of MPs across the political landscape.’

Lift The Ban, which counts Ben & Jerry’s, Refugee Action, Asylum Matters and the CBI among its members, ran a skills audit of people seeking asylum.

The survey found 45% of respondents would have been defined as ‘critical workers’ during the coronavirus crisis, and one in seven previously worked in health or social care.

People seeking asylum are entitled to a Government allowance of £5.66 a day.

Research in July revealed the UK could be missing out on an economic boost of £97.8 million per year because of the work ban.

Paul Hook, director of Asylum Matters, said: ‘The Government’s rules serve no purpose other than to keep people in poverty and undermine integration.

‘People in the asylum system are skilled and talented and could contribute to the Covid-19 response and the wider economic recovery.

‘If the nation is to build back better from Covid-19, it’s surely common sense to harness the contributions and experience of everyone in our society, including people seeking asylum.’

Campaigners claim lifting this work ban would allow asylum seekers to live in greater dignity, to take themselves off state dependency and become financially independent, which would in turn improve their wellbeing and mental health.

They believe it would also boost the UK economy, help fill gaps in industries where there are skills shortages, boost diversity in the workplace and support community integration.

More information about Lift The Ban can be found here.

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