Skip to main content

Lift the Ban backs Government adviser’s call to widen the right to work for people seeking asylum

The Lift the Ban Coalition – an umbrella of more than 300 businesses, recruiters, think tanks, trade unions, faith groups and refugee charities – has backed the Migration Advisory Committee’s latest call to allow people seeking asylum to work in any job.

The committee reaffirmed the call on February 23 in its “rapid review” of the Immigration Salary List (ISL), which the Government announced in December would replace the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in April.

The MAC has recommended the new list contain fewer jobs than the SOL. As people seeking asylum who have been granted the right to work are restricted to jobs on the SOL, the change could further limit their options for work.

However, the committee said:

“We recommended in our 2023 SOL review that, if granted the right to work, asylum seekers should be able to work in any job and failing this any job eligible for the skilled worker route.

“We question the value of restricting asylum seekers granted the right to work to roles on what will become the ISL.

“Under the current rules it means that, for example, an asylum seeker with the right to work could do work as a welder but not as a software developer.”

The current rules on the right to work for people seeking asylum – after 12 months and limited to jobs on the SOL – means the UK has by far the most restrictive access to the labour market when compared to other countries in Europe, North America or Australasia.

The Lift the Ban coalition is calling for people seeking asylum to have the right to work in any role after six months of waiting for a decision on their claim.

Giving people the right to work has the support of four in five voters, according to YouGov polling from 2022, and is backed by politicians from all parties, as well as business and labour organisations.

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research calculated that removing restrictions on work would increase tax revenue by £1.3 billion, reduce Government expenditure by £6.7 billion, and increase GDP by £1.6 billion.

Giving people the right to work would also improve mental and financial wellbeing for people and help reduce the chances of homelessness when they are granted status and lose their asylum support.

Paul Hook, Director at Asylum Matters, which co-leads the coalition with Refugee Action, said:

“The ban on work for people seeking asylum affects all of us. It means less money for our communities, fewer workers for our businesses, and refugees unable to get on with their lives.

“People seeking asylum tell us that they want to use their skills to contribute to their communities and support themselves and their families. And four in five people in the UK support them.

“The Government must take this opportunity to boost the economy, support business, reduce homelessness and improve the lives of thousands of people by lifting the ban on work.”