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Lift the Ban campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament (photo: Refugee Action).

Lift the Ban campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament (photo: Refugee Action).

Local day of action against ban on asylum-seekers working

Local Lift the Ban campaigners will be participating in a nationwide day of action on Saturday to call on the government to give asylum-seekers the right to work. There will be stalls in Hastings and St Leonards during the day and an evening event, One Hastings, Many Voices, to encourage public support. Nick Terdre reports.

At present people seeking asylum in the UK are forbidden to work and expected to live on an allowance of £5.39 a day to feed, clothe and house themselves, with the result that many end up in destitution.

“Preventing people seeking sanctuary from working to support themselves and their families is unfair and inhumane,” says Felicity Laurence, chair of Hastings Community of Sanctuary. “Current policy forces people to live in poverty while their talents are wasted, while our society loses out on a significant contribution to our workforce, often in jobs where people are desperately needed.

“That’s why we’re calling on the Government to lead the way on this common-sense reform, which enjoys widespread public support.”

A series of events has been organised across the UK during June by the Lift the Ban campaign – a coalition of close to 200 charities, think-tanks, businesses, trade unions and faith groups. In Hastings a day of action is planned for Saturday 15 June. From 11am to 2pm there will be stalls in Hastings town centre and Kings Road, St Leonards to engage the local community in the campaign with petitions and leaflets.

One Hastings, Many Voices

In the evening, a One Hastings, Many Voices event will be held from 7pm to 10pm at the Greek Orthodox Church Hall in Church Road, St Leonards – with music, poetry, speakers, refreshments and information stalls – where participants will be asked to sign a petition to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, calling on him to lift the ban: something which does not require a change in the law, just an amendment to existing regulations.

Cllr Trevor Webb, a supporter of the campaign, said: “I am proud to represent an area which is so diverse and enriched by the asylum seekers who come to St Leonards, many of whom stay when they have been granted leave to remain.

“Enabling asylum seekers to work would mean that they would be able to integrate into the local community with dignity, as well as contributing to the local economy.”

Asylum seekers can apply for permission to work if they have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for more than 12 months, but only for jobs on the government’s Shortage Occupation List, a restrictive list which makes it impossible for many to apply.

Decision-making ever slower

The justification for the ban on working, which was introduced under a Labour government in 2002, was that a quick decision-making process would make “the employment concession” irrelevant.

In reality, campaigners say, the decision-making process is anything but quick – by mid 2018 the number of people waiting more than six months for a decision had risen to 14,528, the highest number since public records began and an 8% increase on the previous year, even though asylum applications have been in decline since 2015.

The UK’s approach to employment rights for asylum-seekers is significantly more restrictive than any other comparable country: no other European country enforces a minimum 12-month waiting period, nor do the US or Canada.

If the UK were to adopt a six-month waiting period, unrestricted by the Shortage Occupation List, it would go from being an outlier to joining the international mainstream, they say.

Local Labour has passed a motion supporting the Lift the Ban campaign and plans to introduce similar motions in both Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council.

Asylum-seekers’ right to work was among a number of reforms called for at last November’s Sanctuary in Parliament event, which was attended by Dr Laurence and Alex Kempton from Hastings Community of Sanctuary.

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Posted 17:42 Wednesday, Jun 12, 2019 In: Politics

1 Comment

  1. Angie Phillip

    Thank you for posting this. It’s an excellent reminder of an injustice (and a stupidity) that needs fighting.

    Comment by Angie Phillip — Friday, Jun 14, 2019 @ 00:03

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