The Refugee Council and the TUC today launch a joint campaign calling on the Government to let asylum seekers work. The new initiative aims to build trade union and public support for a change in policy that would allow asylum seekers who have been in the country for longer than six months, or who are unable to return home, to work and support themselves, and make a contribution to the UK economy. The campaign is being launched at the 2008 TUC Black Workers’ Conference.
The policy allowing asylum seekers to work after six months was reversed in 2002. Since then, asylum seekers in the UK, some of whom have waited months or even years for a decision on their claim, have been forced live on a benefits system that leaves them 30% below the poverty line. Asylum seekers who have reached the end of the process but are unable to return home are in a worse predicament, receiving either minimal support or no support at all.
Many asylum seekers are well qualified. 57% are educated to A-Level standard, and 24% have higher level qualifications. However, once they are given leave to stay in the UK, many qualified refugees are forced into low-skilled jobs because they have been out of the job market for so long. The result is a group of people, individuals and families, marginalised and forced into poverty.
Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“It is a disgrace that we let all this amazing talent go to waste, and in fact spend money in doing so. Why force an asylum-seeking nurse or engineer to rely on handouts from the state when there is so much demand for people who can do those jobs? Asylum seekers are desperate to work and give something back to the country that has taken them in. We would all benefit from giving them the right to work.”
Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC said:
“The right to work – to earn a living, to provide for yourself and your family – is a fundamental human right. Denying asylum seekers this right condemns them and their families to poverty while they await the outcome of their asylum claims. The TUC will work with the Refugee Council and other organisations to press Ministers to change the law so that asylum seekers can use their skills, make a contribution to our communities, and pay their way in our economy.”
Notes to editor:
1. Donna Covey will be speaking at the 2008 TUC Black Workers’ Conference on Friday 18 April at the Winter Gardens in Eastbourne. She will be available for interview at the conference – please contact Hannah Ward on 020 7346 1213.
2. The campaign website can be accessed at http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/righttowork/
3. The campaign is being launched by the Refugee Council and the TUC. For further information please contact:
Hannah Ward, Refugee Council: 020 7346 1213 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Holdsworth, TUC Press Office: 020 7467 1372 / email@example.com