Our economy is about people living, working, and thriving together. We can’t build a fair economy or society if people are excluded from taking part.
Asylum seekers are people who have fled their homes to escape persecution and serious human rights violations. We all have a right to seek asylum. Thankfully, the vast majority of us will never have to contemplate such action to keep ourselves or our families safe.
In Northern Ireland, there are an estimated 800 people seeking asylum who are not allowed to work to support themselves and their families. People who have travelled great distances fleeing war and hardship to land on what they thought were safe shores to make a new start.
But under successive British governments -- both Labour and Conservative -- the UK Home Office has tightened restrictions on Asylum seekers in every area of life, in a cruel strategy that mistakenly believes that making Asylum seekers' lives miserable will deter others from following them. The majority of political parties at Stormont already support the Right to Work for Asylum seekers but we need to do more.
Asylum seekers live on a meagre allowance and are completely reliant on the charity of community organisations, family and friends to survive.
The UK -- unlike most European Countries -- does not permit asylum seekers to work to support themselves. Instead they are made to live on £5.66 per day and may only request the right to work after they have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for over a year. Even then, their request will only be granted if they match a narrow list of specialist professions from the government’s hand-picked 'Shortage Occupation List'.
The work ban is a central plank of the UK Home Office 'Hostile Environment' strategy.
Lift The Ban is a community of Asylum seekers, refugees and supporters who are proud to be part of Belfast. We believe that Belfast, and it’s people can stand up to the home office and help create a hospitable environment and a kinder economy. We don’t have to wait for permission from Westminster to show kindness to our neighbours.
There are so many reasons why people seeking asylum should be allowed to work, but here are our top 5;
- Without the Right to Work, Asylum seekers are driven into poverty and struggling charities and public services have to pick up the pieces.
- The Right to Work would let talented people practice their skills to support the local economy and communities.
- The Right to Work allows people to live a dignified and more fulfilled life, relieves isolation and improves mental and physical health, easing stress on the NHS.
- The Right to Work reduces the risk faced by Asylum seekers of exploitation, trafficking, modern slavery and crime.
- In a post Covid economic recovery the Right to Work for Asylum seekers makes clear financial sense.
This year we surveyed 125 Asylum seekers living in Northern Ireland who are banned from working and sharing their talents in their new home. We have engaged with Executive Ministers and local businesses to secure support for asylum seekers and in 2022 we will launch our research as part of the Lift The Ban campaign.