By Tom, Campaigns and Public Affairs team
Last Friday the Let Them Work constituency lobby began all over the country. Small groups in every region did their bit to help the campaign by lobbying their MPs to persuade them that asylum seekers should have permission to work again—a concession that was abruptly, unjustifiably removed in July 2002.
So, seven years later Refugee Council have joined up with the TUC and over 20 trade unions and other charities to push the government to change this misguided policy that wrecks lives and limits our economy.
For over six months I’ve been delivering training all over the north of England to prepare for this lobby. I’ve met so many groups of people seeking sanctuary who have suffered under an appalling system that is ‘not fit for purpose’ and has blighted their lives for years. What inspires me most in these meetings is how eager and disciplined these groups are.
For me, the campaign is a matter of justice, of doing the decent thing by people who deserve dignity and respect. But for the friends I have made in this campaign, the unpaid colleagues I work with and for—for the asylum seekers who are the root and flower of Let Them Work, this issue is absolutely personal. To these campaigners, it is Let Us Work. If I ever need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, that’s it.
Already we’ve had some fantastic feedback from lobby groups. In the north east, for instance, a group of ten asylum seekers met with an MP in Sunderland. They’ve been waiting five and seven years, no decision on their claims, all suffering the effects of long-term enforced unemployment, all ready and willing to work if they get permission.
To the Home Office, these are “a backlog” that will be “dealt with” by 2011, with no apology for the unacceptable delays. But for their MP now they are human beings, faces and names and families. And that personal contact makes all the difference.