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‘Allowing asylum-seekers to work could generate £100m’

GRANTING asylum-seekers the right to work could generate almost £100 million a year for the government and fill huge shortages in key worker roles, a new report has claimed. 

People seeking asylum in Britain are not permitted to work while their applications are processed, bar a small number of exceptions. 

But decisions can take years, during which time asylum-seekers are often pushed into poverty and their skills are wasted, refugee groups claim. 

Research released today by Lift the Ban, a coalition of trade unions, economic think tanks and charities, suggests that if asylum-seekers were allowed to work six months after making a claim, their contributions in income tax and national insurance could generate £98m a year for the economy. 

Many people denied work would also fall under the category of essential workers and could help in the Covid-19 response, the coalition added. 

Refugee Action head of campaigns Mariam Kemple Hardy said: “People seeking asylum can bring a diverse range of skills to the [Britain]. 

“There are healthcare and social care professionals who could be supporting [Britain’s] response to Covid-19.”

The report points out that Britain has greater restrictions on the issue than Australia, the United States, Canada and other European countries and that it is “common sense” to allow asylum-seekers to contribute to society. 

Currently, people seeking asylum in Britain live off a pitiful government allowance of £5.66 a day, an amount raised by just 26p during the pandemic. 

Migrant Voice director Nazek Ramadan told the Morning Star that without the ability to work asylum-seekers were “denied the dignity that comes from the right to support themselves and their families” and suffered “debilitating and long-lasting” effects to their mental health.

“Instead, forced into inactivity and often isolation, their skills decay, their confidence withers, and a vital chance to learn the ways of this country and to get to know its people – to ‘integrate’ – is lost,” she added. 

An asylum-seeker from Cameroon, who has been waiting for a decision on his claim for almost two years, said he feels he will not be able to regain the skills he learned as a journalist in his home country. 

He said: “Now I can’t work and I get very, very depressed. It feels like my life doesn’t have a value in this country, just because I have this label of asylum-seeker. 

“When you work, you discover new skills, you learn new things every day. I could have achieved so much in these two years if I had the opportunity.

“Give me the opportunity to express myself, to learn, to do something for society. Give me the chance to integrate. How can I do that if I can’t work?”

The Home Office said it is in the process of reviewing the ban on asylum seekers’ right to work. A spokesperson said: “Asylum seekers are permitted to work in jobs on the Shortage Occupation List if they have been waiting for a decision on their claim for more than 12 months, through no fault of their own.”

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