Skip to main content

Lift the Ban

People seeking asylum
are being frozen
out of work

#LiftTheBan: give people seeking asylum the right to work

A builder, a chef, an office worker, a scientist, a farmer, a care worker and a teacher want to work. It sounds like the set up for a punchline, but it’s the Home Office rules that freeze them out because they’re seeking asylum that are a joke.

Since Autumn 2018 Refugee Action has been part of a 260-member strong coalition of charities, trade unions, businesses, faith groups and think tanks campaigning to overturn the Government’s ban on people seeking asylum being able to work.

On 21 October 2020, we presented the Home Office with a petition signed by more than 180,000 people calling on the Government to lift the ban.

In March 2022, YouGov polling found that 81% of the public support the right to work for people seeking asylum in the UK.

To mark the occasion, we staged a protest with a difference. Living statues representing the professionals frozen out of work because of a ban which flies in the face of common sense.

It’s not just nonsensical, the ban is harmful to everyone involved. It takes the toughest toll on people seeking asylum, but the UK economy also misses out on tax revenue and much-needed specialists by leaving people frozen in poverty. The time has come to #LiftTheBan.

180,000 people behind them means a lot to people seeking asylum.

Gaining the right to work would mean so much more.


"I want to work – I don’t want any more hand-me-downs. I want to enjoy the reward of my sweat. I don’t want to rely on the government’s benefits. I want to work so I can prove myself to my children."

RoseSeeking asylum in the UK

Banned from working – waiting months, even years

Right now, right here in the UK, people seeking refugee status are banned from working while they wait months, and often years, for a decision on their asylum claim.

Instead, they are left to live on just £5.84 per day, struggling to support themselves and their families, whilst the Government wastes the talents of thousands of people.

We think that’s wrong. We believe that people who have risked everything to find safety should have the best chance of contributing to our society and integrating into our communities. This means giving people seeking asylum the right to work so that they can use their skills and live in dignity.

Allowing people seeking asylum to work could benefit the UK economy by £333 million each year

Lift the Ban: Common Sense

This Lift The Ban coalition report shows how clear the evidence in favour of giving people seeking asylum the right to work is.

From a rise in the estimated benefit to the Treasury to enduring public and business support and examples that show lifting the ban makes even more sense during the coronavirus pandemic – this report makes the rational, moral and financial case for the right to work.

If this wasn’t enough, it is estimated that the UK economy could gain £333m per year if the ban was lifted.

It’s time to lift the ban. It’s just common sense.

Read the coalition’s report here.

There are so many ways you can give your support

There are all sorts of ways to add your voice to our campaign on this issue. For more information on how you can get involved, download our activism pack below.

It’s full of tips and information on how to campaign in your local area.