Local people demand that ban on asylum seekers finding work be lifted

Campaigners in Hastings and St Leonards are calling on the Government to allow people seeking asylum in the UK the right to work.

Politicians, campaigners, celebrities and members of the public will gather on Saturday, June 15th to call on the Government to give asylum seekers the right to work in the UK.

This gathering is part of a series of events taking place across the UK throughout June organised by the Lift the Ban campaign – a coalition of close to 200 charities, think tanks, businesses, trade unions and faith groups calling for people seeking asylum to be allowed to work.

Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Felicity Laurence, Chair of Hastings Community of Sanctuary, said: “Preventing people seeking sanctuary from working to support themselves and their families is unfair and inhumane. Current policy forces people to live in poverty while their talents are wasted, while our society loses out on a significant contribution to our workforce, often in jobs where people are desperately needed.

“That’s why we’re calling on the Government to lead the way on this common sense reform, which enjoys widespread public support.”

Front-page-of-reportCurrently, people seeking asylum in the UK are effectively banned from working. They can apply for permission to work if they have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for over 12 months, but only for jobs on the Government’s ‘shortage occupation list’, a restrictive list that includes jobs such as classical ballet dancer and nuclear medicine practitioner. They are given £5.39 a day to support themselves while waiting months, sometimes even years, for a decision on their claim. Those campaigning to  lift the ban say this means that destitution is too often an unavoidable outcome for many people seeking safety in the UK.

The One Hastings Many Voices event on the June 15th runs from 7pm until 10pm at the Greek Orthodox Church Hall in Church Street, St Leonards and will bring together members of the local community, with music, poetry, speakers, refreshments and information stalls. Those taking part will be asked to sign a petition and send postcards to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, calling on him to lift the ban on working for people seeking asylum. Dr Laurence says it is not even necessary for him to change the law, just to amend existing regulations.

Earlier in the day there will be stalls in Kings Road St Leonards and in Hastings town centre, from 11am until 2pm to engage the local community in the campaign with petitions and leaflets.

Local borough and county councillor, Trevor Webb, says: “I am proud to represent an area which is so diverse and enriched by the asylum seekers who come to St Leonards, many of whom stay when they have been granted leave to remain. Enabling asylum seekers to work would mean that they would be able to integrate into the local community with dignity as well as contributing to the local economy.”

  • Over recent years the number of people awaiting a decision on their asylum claim for more than six months has grown steadily. By mid-2018, the number of people waiting over six months for a decision on their asylum claim had risen to 14,528, the highest number since public records began and an eight per cent increase on the previous year, despite the fact that since 2015 asylum applications have been steadily falling. Currently almost half of main applications waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim have been waiting for over six months.
  • Campaigners say there is strong public support for this policy reform, evidenced in polling undertaken by British Future in 2018, which experts say would improve integration and allow people seeking asylum to contribute to the economy.
  • They also claim the UK’s approach to employment rights for people seeking asylum is significantly more restrictive than any other comparable country and point out that following the removal in 2018 of a near-total ban on people seeking asylum working in Ireland, no other European country now enforces a minimum 12-month waiting period.

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