Want to make savings, Chancellor? Allow asylum seekers to work! - Refugee Council
July 23, 2010

Want to make savings, Chancellor? Allow asylum seekers to work!

By Philippa, Communications team

A few weeks ago, the Treasury launched the Spending Challenge website, an interactive site asking the general public to suggest ways in which the government can make savings. How very democratic of them!

There were some very good ideas… like giving asylum seekers permission to work. But such sensible suggestions were lost amongst malicious, unhelpful guff. It seems that the Chancellor was making his own savings by not recruiting a moderator for the site, judging from the hundreds of completely ludicrous, hilarious, and on a more worrying note, bigoted and xenophobic suggestions that members of the public posted.

Unsurprisingly, the fiasco has been slammed in numerous blogs and news outlets, and the Treasury has since ‘removed the interactive facility’. It is still possible to submit suggestions until mid-August, but my faith in the initiative has floundered.

Despite this, we don’t want to miss this opportunity to suggest that allowing asylum seekers to work and contribute, rather than relying on state support, would be an effective way of saving the Home Office a lot of cash.

Asylum seekers come to this country in search of safety, not in search of jobs. While they are waiting for a final outcome on their asylum claim, they want to use their skills and support themselves and their families. When government spending is being cut, it doesn’t make sense to force people who could work to live on benefits.

We know that a more effective way to persuade government to make this change than any new-fangled website, is to write directly to your MP. The more people who take the time to do this, the more likely we are to make an impact.

Until 2002 when the previous government changed the rules, asylum seekers could work to support themselves. Now, people who have fled war and persecution are living in poverty, and some are completely destitute.

The new government has the chance to change this and prove to us that they really do listen to the public’s more sensible suggestions!