Trade Unions join Refugee Council to call for asylum seekers to be allowed to work - Refugee Council
April 28, 2008

Trade Unions join Refugee Council to call for asylum seekers to be allowed to work

By Bob – Campaigns and Public Affairs Team

A key part of our strategy for campaigning is to work in partnerships so as to extend our ability to raise issues facing refugees – and the Trade Union movement is a mighty ally.

So I was particularly pleased to travel down to Eastbourne last Friday to hear Donna Covey launch our new joint campaign with the TUC aimed to persuade the government to withdraw its opposition to allowing asylum seekers to work.

As usual, our Chief Executive, Donna Covey, made some pungent points about the terrible waste of lives and resource caused by the forced unemployment of asylum seekers, backed up by stories from some of the many refugees who we know in this position.

But we were lifted when TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber made our campaign the impassioned centrepiece of his own speech to a conference of more than 300 union officials representing black workers.

He called the campaign claim “no more than a fundamental human right” and said that “if Thatcher allowed (work), there was no reason why a Labour government in its 12th year could not”.

As Mr Barber noted, the first step in the campaign is to “build a greater awareness among TU members” and that this is a “huge job” as they have been subject to the same level of misinformation as other members of the public.

Reaction from delegates after the speeches was terrifically positive, with plenty signing up to support the campaign as we scurried round with clipboards getting email addresses for follow ups.

We plan to spend the summer building grass root supports from Trade Union branches, with refugees giving their stories directly in a series of meetings. If you are or have been an asylum seeker and you have been affected by not being able to work – or indeed if you have now got permission to work, you may be able to help. Send me a note to