Asylum Seekers and Permission to Work

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:02 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark 4:02 pm, 18th November 2020

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered asylum seekers and permission to work.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests for the support I received for research capacity in my office in relation to work on asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. The Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy project provides research capacity to me and other Members of Parliament on this issue, and it does a fantastic job generally.

While I am thanking RAMP, I want to thank everyone involved in the Lift the Ban campaign: Refugee Action, Asylum Matters, the Refugee Council, City of Sanctuary UK, Ben & Jerry’s, UNISON, which is the country’s biggest trade union, the Salvation Army, and Church of England and other faith groups. I would also like to thank other RAMP principals, including David Simmonds, for attending this debate. I know he wants to contribute, and that is very welcome. There is no politics involved in getting this right, in my opinion.

Who does this issue affect? An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for asylum, is legally entitled to be in the country and is awaiting a decision on whether they will be granted refugee status. After a claim is made in the UK, an asylum seeker is granted the right to work after 12 months in a limited pool of occupations. That is important, because the shortage occupation list, which is administered by the Government, is a system more akin to a Stalinist economic plan in the Soviet Union than global Britain in the 21st century.

I will give a bit of the history—come with me in my Tardis. In December 2018, the Home Secretary stated that a Home Office review of the policy on asylum seekers and work would be taking place. Since then, any questions that have been posed or letters that have been written to Ministers have all been met with the response that work is ongoing. In all that time, we still do not have a full idea of the remit, the process that is being followed or when it will report.

On 25 July 2019, in a debate about priorities for Government, the Prime Minister told my hon. Friend Kate Green:

“The Home Office is currently reviewing that matter, and we will make an announcement shortly.”—[Official Report, 25 July 2019;
Vol. 663, c. 1493.]

Shortly? Priorities for Government? That was on 25 July last year. We know that a week is a long time in politics, but 64 weeks after the Prime Minister told us that it was his priority to deliver the review and he would make an announcement shortly, we still have no news.