Asylum Seekers: Right to Work

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner 11:00 am, 24th October 2018

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered asylum seekers’
right to work.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I am grateful that this debate has been granted. I am also grateful to those right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken to me about this important issue and those who have been able to join us today.

Throughout my time as a Member of Parliament, my constituency has been a dispersal area for asylum seekers, so I have seen both models—allowing asylum seekers to work and not allowing them to do so—under Governments of different political persuasions. However, since 2002, regulations have slowly changed, and now most people seeking asylum are completely unable to work. Until 2002, people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom could apply for permission to work if they had been waiting six months or more for an initial decision on their asylum claim. In July 2002, that provision was withdrawn, except in exceptional cases.

In February 2005, there was a further change: a new immigration rule was introduced to allow people seeking asylum to apply for permission to work in the UK if they had been waiting over 12 months for an initial decision on their asylum claim. Most recently, in 2010, the right to work after 12 months was extended to those who had made further submissions on their claim. At the same time, however, the right to work was restricted to jobs on the shortage occupation list, which is a restricted list that includes nuclear medical practitioners —or, in parlance that the rest of us might understand, radiographers—and classical ballet dancers.

The Home Office’s target for decisions on asylum cases is six months. In the most recent immigration statistics, released in the second quarter of this year, the number of main applicants waiting over six months for a decision on their asylum claim increased. For main applicants and dependents, 48% of people waiting for an initial decision had been waiting for over six months.