At a news conference in the House of Commons this morning, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe and the Refugee Council join the recent call from the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, and other church leaders, for the government to address the growing problem of destitution among asylum seekers, and to allow those who can to work.
The Immigration Minister Tony McNulty MP this week suggested that support is available for unsuccessful asylum seekers who cannot return home, and that government policy is not responsible for making people destitute. This is not the case, and nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than by the situation faced by asylum seekers from Zimbabwe.
The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal ruled in October that it was not safe to return asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe. Since then, Zimbabwean asylum seekers have been left in limbo, unable to access support from the government, unable to work, but with no prospect of returning home.
Kate Hoey MP said:
“There are Zimbabweans I know personally who have been reduced to destitution within the past few weeks even though they have skills we really need in this country such as teaching and nursing. We can’t send them back to Mugabe’s tyranny, so it is common sense they should be allowed to work for their living.”
The Refugee Council is campaigning this winter to end destitution for asylum seekers, and is calling on the government to allow those who can to work.
Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“It is inexcusable that we are still forcing vulnerable people into destitution. It is even worse that many of these people have valuable skills and talents that could benefit both the UK economy and society. If people are unable to return home, they should be properly supported and offered the opportunity to work and contribute.”
Many Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK have skills and experience that are in huge demand here in the UK. One asylum seeker said:
“Asylum seekers would love to work and support themselves whilst waiting for decision on their cases. We don’t want to be a burden on the economy or the state, that’s the simple argument we are making. If the state is finding it difficult to support us then give us the right to work and support ourselves.”