From the TUC

Asylum seekers: Let them work

14 Sep 2009, by in International, Working Life

Jonathan Ellis will be speaking at a Refugee Council/TUC Congress fringe event on the campaign to grant asylum seekers the right to work on Wednesday 16 September at 12:45pm.

At the Refugee Council, an independent human rights charity, we support people who come to this country seeking asylum because it’s not safe for them to stay in their own country. They are forced to flee and come here for safety, for sanctuary, for protection.

Many of the clients that we try to help each day come here with limited knowledge of the UK, let alone an understanding of the complexities of our benefit system. They expect to work and stand on their own two feet. Yet they are denied the right to work and instead forced to rely on asylum support – support that the government announced recently would be cut to just over £35 a week for single adults.

Despite the Thatcher government giving asylum seekers the right to work in 1986, it was then taken away by the Blair government in 2002. So they can’t work and then find themselves derided in the media for not working and taking benefits.

This is a crazy state of affairs. Why do we deny asylum seekers the right to work? Our recent research with the Zimbabwe Association showed the waste of these skills from just one community and the impact on health by blocking any opportunity for employment.

We believe that asylum seekers should have the entitlement to work. And at times of economic hardship, it is so important that we show solidarity with the most vulnerable people in our society. And asylum seekers are among the most vulnerable.

We have clients who have fled persecution and are trying to forge a new life here, but are prevented from working and using their wide range of skills and experiences.

For this reason we launched a campaign last year with the TUC for asylum seekers to be given the entitlement to work.

We now have the support from over 20 trade unions, which has given a huge boost to the campaign. Over 90 cross party MPs have signed Early Day Motion 960 on this issue and charities such as Banardos and Shelter have come out in support.

We have a record of offering people safety in this country. We should be proud of this record, but when people are here seeking safety surely we should let them work? Momentum is growing on this campaign – why don’t you add your own voice to this campaign by signing our online pledge?

GUEST POST: Jonathan Ellis is Director of Policy and Development at the Refugee Council where he leads the team working on research, policy and campaigning as well as support for refugee community organisations (RCOs). He is also author of Campaigning for Success- how to cope when you achieve your campaign goal (NCVO 2007). He was Director of the Empty Homes Agency, and as campaign manager for OXFAM, he worked on a campaign with the Refugee Council and the Transport and General Workers’ Union, which led to the abolition of the asylum vouchers scheme. Jonathan blogs at the Refugee Council’s Poliblog.

One Response to Asylum seekers: Let them work

  1. Thobekile
    Sep 26th 2009, 1:19 pm

    Thanks. Im allowed to work. The problem I found was eviction even before I got the allowance letter, as soon as it was written before I even had an NI NUMBER, I was not allowed job seekers allowance yet I was getting just a voucher never mind council house. This kind of treatment to someone who is going to be heavilly taxed, I think is very strange. We are people that help families back home that have no state help at all, so dependent on loved ones like us for death and for life. It looks as if there is more than give back which is a good thing. So much take as compared to give. I appreciate.