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 agree 100% and that echoes the point made earlier that these are people who want to contribute, to make a difference and to improve our country as well as their own lives. I have two quick examples from constituency casework. One woman who applied for asylum in 2014, was initially refused, and reapplied in 2017 has still had no response and no decision. She fled Eritrea due to political repression and has physical injuries as a result of the beatings that she took there. Her current application has taken more than three years and remains undecided. The second is a man with post-traumatic stress disorder from his experience in Iran, where he was born, who received a refusal in 2019, after waiting more than a year initially. He submitted a fresh application, including more medical information, has still not received a response and is left destitute. This is an issue—the longer people wait and are out of work, the harder it is for them to contribute when permitted by the Government. Of course, there are also mental health issues and other implications for those left marginalised and isolated on the periphery of society. These are people who could be contributing, as other Members have mentioned.

It is estimated that the current policy costs the taxpayer almost £100 million a year—for an awful, inhumane and incompetent approach. The CBI and TUC back the Lift the Ban campaign. It would generate income and reduce bureaucracy, help raise additional income tax and national insurance, and cut emergency accommodation and other costs. Of course, there are stronger and long-term savings as people integrate and contribute more. Compared globally, we perform badly. Before people can work in France, Spain and the USA it is six months, in Germany it is three months, and in Italy two months. In Canada and Australia—Ministers often hold up the Australian immigration system—there is no wait. People can get into work as soon as they arrive. Why are we not using the Australian model? Why is the Minister still sustaining the damage of this policy to our economy and those people’s lives?

In conclusion, what the campaign asks for is a change and for the ban to be lifted to ensure a more humane approach that tackles this long-term isolation and marginalisation; one befitting the UK’s proud history of support and allowing people who face persecution and repression abroad to enter; and one that is in our economic interests, helping us to tackle covid so that people can protect themselves, the NHS and the wider community. Without that change the Home Office, the Department responsible for safety in this country, leaves those people and our whole community unsafe.