Home Department written question – answered on 14th January 2010.

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Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what evidence there is that the policy before 2002 of allowing asylum seekers who had waited more than six months for a decision on their claim to apply for permission to work was a pull factor for asylum seekers to come to the UK; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (the North West), Home Office, Minister of State (the North West), HM Treasury, Minister of State (the North West), Regional Affairs

The Government believe that managed migration is a valuable source of skills and labour to the British economy and there are recognised routes into the UK for those seeking to work. However, entering the country for economic reasons is not the same as seeking asylum, and it is important to maintain the distinction between the two.

Giving asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers permission to work would be likely to encourage asylum applications from those without a well-founded fear of persecution, hence slowing down the processing of applications made by genuine refugees and undermining the integrity of the managed migration system. Indeed, asylum intake has dropped significantly since the policy change in 2002.

This is why we do not generally allow asylum seekers to work while their claim for asylum is under consideration. The only exception is asylum seekers who have been waiting 12 months for a decision where this delay cannot be attributed to them. This is consistent with our obligations under the EC reception directive.

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Richard Williams
Posted on 15 Jan 2010 3:46 pm (Report this annotation)

New research has found no evidence that asylum seekers come to the UK because of access to welfare or work. See Chance or Choice? Understanding why asylum seekers come to the UK Swansea University/Refugee Council (
The vast majority of asylum seekers come to the UK because they are fleeing conflict or persecution and see the UK as a place of safety, a democratic country where human rights are respected.
Allowing them to work would not lead to a rise in numbers, but would reduce the costs of asylum support, enable them to contribute to the UK economy, reduce resentment in host communities, enhance social cohesion, and give those who are refused asylum the skills and confidence to return voluntarily