Right to work: Asylum seekers - April 2022

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for contacting me about asylum seekers and employment.

I recognise that this is a very important issue; the UK has a proud tradition of providing a place of safety for refugees. Each claim for asylum is carefully considered and where it is found that people are in need of protection, asylum is given. Those with refugee status have immediate and unrestricted access to the labour market.

Asylum seekers are allowed to apply for permission to work, in jobs on the Shortage Occupation List, if their claim has not been decided after 12 months through no fault of their own. The current policy aims to strike a balance between being equitable towards asylum seekers, while considering the rights and needs of our society as a whole, prioritising jobs for British citizens and those with leave to remain here, including refugees.

I am aware that campaign groups, including Lift the Ban, have sought changes to the UK's asylum seeker right to work policy and I welcome that the Government has recently concluded a review on this matter. Further information about the review is set out in the Minister's statement here: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2021-12-08/hcws452

Although I imagine it is not the answer you were hoping to receive, the Government found that the fiscal benefits arising from a relaxation of the right to work policy were likely to be significantly lower than the figures claimed by Lift the Ban. In light of wider priorities to fix the broken asylum system, reduce pull factors to the UK, and ensure policies do not encourage people to undercut the resident labour force, the Home Office made the decision to retain the UK's asylum seeker right to work policy with no further changes.

I welcome this outcome, which I know will protect our immigration system from those lodging unfounded asylum claims in an attempt to avoid work visa rules, particularly at a time when the number of dangerous journeys made by small boat remain extremely high. As the minister indicated in the above statement, resources are better deployed to pursuing an ongoing programme of transformation and system improvement initiatives that will speed up decision making, reducing the time people spend in the system awaiting an interview or decision.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.


Richard Fuller