migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Glasgow leads way on 'right to work'

Editorial: Glasgow leads way on 'right to work'

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Glasgow leads way on 'right to work'

Glasgow could become the first UK city to allow all asylum seekers to work, six months after they submit their claim, following a report published on 5 March.

We’re delighted that this diverse and progressive city – home to one of MV’s migrant network hubs – is paving the way to a humane and practical policy on this issue that’s fit for the 21st century.

Migrant Voice urges the Home Office to accept the recommendations provided by the Scottish Refugee Council, the Scottish government, Glasgow City Council and others in their report, including a pilot project in Glasgow giving asylum seekers the right to work. And we further urge the Home Office to act quickly to make this national policy.

Currently, asylum seekers who have been waiting 12 months for a decision can apply to the Home Office for permission to work – but only if they are qualified for a job on the government’s “Shortage Occupation List”, which largely comprises highly specialised roles including geophysicist, cyber security specialist and professional ballet dancer.

In nine years of Migrant Voice, we have not yet met an asylum seeker who has successfully applied for permission to work.
Alaa, one of our members in Glasgow and a refugee from Syria, said he welcomed the new report and wished he had been allowed to work while waiting for a decision on his asylum claim.

He was a journalist and news editor in Syria, writing about politics and culture. He wants to do similar work here, he explained, but needs to improve his English first, which is much easier if you have work.

“Everybody should have the right to work,” he said. “Now I’m looking for any job at all. I just want to work.”

By giving all those seeking asylum the right to support themselves, the government would be restoring a level of dignity to a group of people currently oppressed by a deeply flawed, overly bureaucratic asylum system, and by the pitiful state-sanctioned handouts on which they must live.

We are a proud partner in the Lift the Ban campaign, a coalition of over 80 NGOs, think tanks, businesses and faith groups calling for all asylum seekers to be given the right to work after six months.

Like the campaign to end indefinite detention, Lift the Ban is steadily gaining traction, with two bills that would end what is essentially the forced unemployment of asylum seekers currently going through the House of Commons.

We should celebrate victory on either of these issues – but we must not forget that the UK has long been out of step with our Western neighbours on both policies.

The UK is the only country in Europe to have no time limit on immigration detention, and has the most restrictive policy on asylum seekers’ access to work.

Even Hungary, with a government known for highly restrictive immigration policies, allows asylum seekers to work after nine months. In Canada, Greece and Sweden, asylum seekers can work within one day of arrival.

The UK is a shamefully long way from being the role model for immigration and asylum policies that our politicians so often claim us to be – but implementing the recommendations from the Glasgow report would go some way to bringing us into step with our neighbours.

Without the right to work, asylum seekers are denied the dignity that comes from the right to support themselves and their families, denied the chance to use their skills and talents, the chance to learn and practise English.

Instead, forced into inactivity and often isolation, their skills decay, their confidence withers, and a vital chance to learn the ways of this country and to get to know its people – to “integrate” – is lost. These circumstances can also have a debilitating and long-lasting impact on their mental health.

If that person then has their asylum claim accepted, he or she is then expected to immediately find a home and a job – a daunting task in any situation, but almost insurmountable after years of imposed inactivity.

Asylum seekers must be given the right to work, and urgently. Let Glasgow be the first step on the road to dignity through work for asylum seekers in this country.