Under the terms of the employment concession, adult asylum seekers can apply for permission to work if their application has been outstanding for longer than six months without a decision being made on it. There are no plans to alter the way in which the concession operates.
A study by the Mayor estimates that more than half of London's refugee population is economically inactive although most refugees want to work. Does the Minister accept that, economically, that is highly irrational at a time of chronic labour shortage in many service industries? Is it not even more absurd that the Government are scouring the world for qualified doctors and nurses when hundreds are sitting in this country, dependent on vouchers or in detention? Will she have a fresh look at the six-month rule and the single-applicant rule, which perpetuate an irrational and unreasonable policy?
The hon. Gentleman seems to be confusing asylum seekers with refugees. As he knows, refugees are entitled to work and we have many schemes for enabling, for example, those who have medical and nursing qualifications to work in the health service, where they are much needed.
However, the hon. Gentleman should agree that we must not allow our asylum and immigration rules to be breached so that people traffickers decide who comes into the country. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has talked about an economic migration policy, about which he will make a statement to the House soon.
Will my hon. Friend reconsider the policy? There are many thousands of asylum seekers in my constituency. I do not sneer at economic migrants, who have come to this country to try to make a contribution. Thousands of them have nothing to do. If that position is allowed to persist, they will enter the unofficial economy, as they undoubtedly already do. It is demeaning to individuals who want to work not to be able to do so. I therefore ask my hon. Friend to think about the policy again.
If those people have applied for asylum, they have come to this country because they are fleeing torture. For those who are economic migrants, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will have something to say about organising the way in which we will deal with them in a more coherent way in the future. My hon. Friend should not mix up the two.