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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Let asylum seekers work in UK, migration advisers tell ministers

Let asylum seekers work in UK, migration advisers tell ministers

Committee also calls for care workers to be offered fast-track visas to tackle sector’s severe staff shortages
The ban on allowing asylum seekers to work should be lifted and care workers should immediately be given access to fast-track visas, the government’s independent advisers have recommended.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on Wednesday said the government should release evidence backing ministers’ assertions that allowing claimants to work would be a “pull factor” for others to come to the UK.

In its annual report to the home secretary, Priti Patel, the committee said there was clear evidence of the harm being caused by the ban on employment and that a change of policy was needed after the recent drownings in the Channel.

Under current rules, asylum seekers are barred from working unless their claims have been outstanding for 12 months through no fault of their own. After this time, they must seek permission from the Home Office and can only apply for specified jobs on the official shortage occupation list.

The immigration minister Tom Pursglove said last Wednesday that the ban must remain in place to “reduce pull factors to the UK, and ensure our policies do not encourage people to undercut the resident labour force”.

However, Prof Brian Bell, the MAC chair, said on Wednesday he had not seen evidence to back up the “pull factor” assessmentand it was incumbent on ministers to make this public.

“It’s not enough to say: ‘There’s a pull factor’. You’ve got to have evidence to support that. You can’t come to conclusions if you’re not willing to tell us what the evidence is on one side of the equation,” he said.

In December 2018, the then home secretary, Sajid Javid, told parliament he would like to review the ban after findings by the Lift the Ban coalition showed that allowing asylum seekers to work could generate £42m a year for the government.

In June 2021, there were about 56,600 asylum applications pending an initial decision, of which 75% had been waiting longer than six months. This compared with 33% five years ago.

Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, told the Spectator magazine in an interview in September he would support allowing asylum seekers to work.

The committee has also recommended that those working in social care should be placed on the shortage occupation list, which was introduced after free movement of people across the EU ended in January.

It also advised the jobs be made eligible under the health and care visa.

The recommendation, which is usually accepted by ministers, follows months of warnings from the social care sector that it is facing severe staff shortages because of Brexit and the stipulation that all workers be vaccinated against Covid-19.

In a statement, the committee said: “Given the severe and increasing difficulties faced by the care sector, the report brings forward preliminary findings on adult social care. The MAC recommends the government make care workers immediately eligible for the health and care worker visa and place the occupation on the shortage occupation list.”

The list includes jobs where employers face a shortage of suitable labour and where it is sensible to fill those vacancies with migrant workers. Ultimately it is for the government to decide whether the recommendation is accepted.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

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