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Asylum Seekers: Right to Work

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:13 am on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 11:13 am, 24th October 2018

The hon. Lady is right that we need a whole-route approach. We have to look to where we can build stronger alliances, but I am also very clear that we must make sure that refugees claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. We know that in many cases that does not happen. We also know that in many cases—I referenced this earlier—refugees who have been granted status find it difficult to enter the job market, but that is for very understandable reasons. Rather than encourage further integration for those who might eventually not qualify for protection, our priority is focused on our efforts to support those who most need it.

We are taking action to support refugees to integrate and find employment as quickly as possible so that they can establish themselves and build lives here. The “Integrated Communities Strategy” Green Paper, published in March this year, underlined that commitment. It also set out the Government’s priorities to focus on English language, employment, mental health and cultural orientation. When I was in Jordan during the summer recess, I was struck by the work going on there on cultural orientation for people who were yet to be resettled. There were interesting and fascinating discussions in the session that I was able to be part of, but what really struck me was the importance of doing more on that front. In many cases people who are eligible and accepted for resettlement will wait many months before they make the journey here. We should not miss the opportunity to make sure that their cultural orientation and language preparation is as good as it can be. The Syrian refugees who had some level of English were really keen to use it, practise it and have conversations, whereas others in the group clearly felt much more isolated because they did not have that opportunity.

We will publish our response to the consultation later this autumn. There is a great deal more to be said about integration and training and employment. One of my first visits as a Minister was to Bradford, where I visited the specialist training and employment programme, which was all about moving refugees into work and helping them build a CV, improve their English and then find the great employment opportunities that we know are out there, with companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, with its ice academy, and Starbucks. Indeed, the STEP—skills, training and employment pathways—programme was working very closely with Tesco.

I have very few moments left, but I want to reassure Members that I am listening carefully to the argument. There is much merit in it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden has certainly conveyed her views extremely clearly and well. The issue is multifaceted and complex. I look forward to further discussions with Members and NGO colleagues. I remain receptive to the views and evidence presented to me on the right to work. However, it is important that we recognise that there is a balance to be struck and that we make sure we make the right decisions.

Question put and agreed to.

Sitting suspended.