The right to work is integral to human dignity. As the quotes from the research show, for most people it is intertwined with the idea of both self-respect and respect for others. Denying the right to work and forcing people into inaction and dependency is damaging to people’s dignity, their sense of self and their perception of how they fit into their community.
The Home Office’s punitive work ban makes formerly proactive and resourceful people wholly dependent on the state. It forces them into a reliance that is wholly out of character – and it can keep them there for years while their asylum claim is going through labyrinthine evaluation processes. This can be hugely damaging for people who left their homes under unimaginable pressures and made it to this country against all odds, so desperate were they to keep themselves and their families safe. The loss of agency that the work ban imposes translates for many people into a loss of dignity and self-respect.
For parents, this can be particularly hard. They want nothing more than to be able to provide for their family and give their children the best start at life here; yet when they are denied the chance to earn their living and are forced into poverty, they find it is impossible to be the role model they want to be.
In October, the High Court ordered the Home Office to reconsider its decision that an asylum seeker be permitted to work only in specialist positions on the Shortage Occupation List, none of which he was qualified for. He and his family were forced to rely on food banks to feed themselves. The court found that the Home Office had failed to consider the adverse impact of its policy on his young child.
Many asylum seekers reported that work is so important to their dignity and sense of self that they are working here – but for free! Many voluntary organisations and charities in Northern Ireland rely on asylum seekers’ voluntary work to function. UK law doesn’t prohibit voluntary work; the system allows people to participate up to a point, just not for fair pay for a hard days work. That is not fair?
We must Lift the Ban so that asylum seekers can have the same basic level of dignity and respect as the rest of us.
Lift The Ban are responding to the hostility from the Home Office with kindness and solidarity.
Every political party, public authority, civil society organisation, business, community, family and individual can do something right now to change things.
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