It is more than a year since both Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council voted to support asylum seekers being able to work with county councillors voting unanimously in favour of the move.
This councils’ actions followed months of activity in Hastings and St Leonards to raise awareness of the Lift the Ban campaign, which asks for asylum seekers to be allowed to work after waiting six months for a decision on their claim.
But as Jay Kramer from Hastings Community of Sanctuary says: “Our world has changed dramatically since then with the pandemic, which means we can no longer go out on the streets with leaflets and petitions talking to the public.”
Despite that, the nationwide petition to ‘Lift the Ban’ now has more than 160,000 signatures, a number that is increasing every day. The will be presented to Parliament next week on October 21st and campaigners hope it might reach 200,000 signatures before then.
“We are proud that our campaign group here in Hastings has raised 758 signatures so far, showing the considerable level of support from local people for this campaign,” says Jay.
In May, the Lift the Ban Coalition that consists of 240 organisations, including local councils, faith groups, trade unions and businesses, as well our own Hastings Community of Sanctuary, commissioned a skills audit of people seeking asylum. Nearly half of the respondents had former occupations as ‘critical workers’ with one in seven having worked in health or social care. More than three quarters (77 per cent) had already, or would like to have, volunteered for the NHS.
Jay who is Campaign Lead in Hastings says: “This shows huge commitment among people seeking asylum to participate in and help our society. Locally, we know of asylum seekers who are trained paramedics, nurses and doctors who are tragically prevented from being able to contribute, while sometimes waiting years for a decision on their claim for asylum.”
Jay says many asylum seekers are forced into poverty by having to survive on £5.66 a day with more than 70 per cent of applicants for asylum waiting more than six months for a decision, with a backlog of over 45,000 cases, most of whom have been waiting for several years.
“Even if only half of those people were allowed to work, there would be net gains for the Government of at least £97.8 million per year, and huge economic benefits to our society from tax, national insurance contributions and reduced payments for asylum support,” Jay points out.
“In poll after poll, over 70 per cent of the general population favour the right to work for asylum seeking people – right across the leave-remain divide. Furthermore, almost 70 per cent of businesses agree. It is fundamentally wrong to allow this situation to continue. We are urging the Home Secretary to change the regulations and give people seeking asylum the right to work,” Jay told Hastings In Focus.
- Sign the petition by following this link