Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Written evidence submitted by Lift the Ban Coalition (ISSB07)

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19

Introduction

1. The Lift the Ban coalition is made up of 160 non-profit organisations, think tanks, businesses, local authorities and faith groups (see Appendix I). Its members are calling on the Government to give people seeking asylum and their adult dependants the right to work:

a. unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List; and

b. after they have waited six months for a decision on their initial asylum claim or further submission.

Current situation and opportunity for change

2. Currently, asylum seekers may apply for permission to work under Paragraph 360, Part 11B of the Immigration Rules. An individual may only apply for permission if a final decision on their application has not been made within 12 months. If granted, they can only take up employment if the job is listed in the Shortage Occupation List (Immigration Rules Appendix K). This is a highly restrictive list, including such professions as ‘classical ballet dancer’.

3. Paragraph 360 of the Immigration Rules falls within the first of the three categories of law provided for in the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 (Schedule 1, Part 1) as it is domestic legislation which derives from EU law. The rules as they currently stand were introduced to comply with Article 11 of the European Council Directive 2003/9/EC of 27 January 2003, which lays down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers. The UK is bound to follow this directive until its withdrawal from the EU. The 2003 Directive was recast in the Directive 2013/EE/EU of 26 June 2013, laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast) and reducing the maximum period before an asylum applicant is entitled to work from 12 months to 9 months. The 2013 directive does not have any effect in UK law as the UK has not opted into this directive.

4. The recent Immigration White Paper, published on December 20th, recognised "the importance of work when it comes to physical and mental wellbeing, building a sense of wider contribution to our society, and for community integration" and noted that "the Government has committed to listening carefully to the complex arguments around permitting asylum seekers to work." The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 provides an important opportunity for the Government to enshrine the proposed changes within primary legislation.

Why is change needed?

5. In its report, the Lift the Ban campaign has highlighted the advantages that a change in policy would bring, not only to people seeking asylum but also to the communities they live in. It could also achieve an economic gain of £42.4 million for the UK Government, because of additional tax revenues and savings from asylum support costs. Advantages include:

a. Strengthening people’s chances of being able to integrate in the UK

In the foreword to the Government’s Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper, published in March 2018, Sajid Javid set out the Government’s ambition "to build strong integrated communities where people – whatever their background – live, work, learn and socialise together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities." This included increasing the integration support given to people recognised as refugees after arrival in the UK. Yet the current policy excluding people seeking asylum from working undermines attempts to enable them to effectively integrate once they are granted refugee status.

Employment is recognised as one of the most important factors in securing integration. In addition to the direct benefits that work brings, employment may have indirect integration benefits, for instance learning English. Early labour market integration has been consistently shown to be key for successful integration; evidence suggests that when people seeking asylum are subject to extended periods during which their access to the labour market is restricted, their economic integration is slowed. [1]

b. Allowing people seeking asylum to live in dignity and to provide for themselves and their families

An intentional policy of restricting people’s access to the labour market for long periods is certain to have a harmful impact on their sense of pride and dignity. Research supports the idea that work contributes to people’s well-being: one analysis carried out by the Office for National Statistics showed that people whose household income consists of a high proportion of cash benefits, regardless of the level of that income, are likely to experience lower life satisfaction, lower happiness, and higher anxiety. [2]

There is also a considerable detrimental impact on those seeking asylum, as well as their children and families, of having to live below the poverty line for extended periods. Currently, almost half of those waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim have been waiting over six months. While they wait, people are forced to survive on just £5.39 per day. Over half of the people that the Lift the Ban coalition surveyed for its report told us that they had used a food bank at some point in the past year.

c. Giving people the opportunity to use their skills and make the most of their potential

As a result of current policy, the Government is creating a situation whereby people are forced to live in limbo for long periods of time and cannot put their talents to use. Their many and varied skills are being wasted, at best; at worst, they are being lost.

Of the people surveyed by the Lift the Ban campaign in 2018, 94% said that they would like to work if given permission to do so. Only three people said that they would rather not work; one of them told us that they would first like to study. People in the asylum system are distressed by being unable to put their skills to use whilst they are waiting for a decision on their claim. Asked about their qualifications, 74% of the people we surveyed told us that they had secondary-level education or higher. Over a third (37%) of those surveyed held an undergraduate or postgraduate university degree, which falls just short of the percentage of the total UK population classed as graduates (42%). Nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents were working before they came to the UK, despite many of their countries of origin having been at war for years or having some of the world’s lowest employment rates.

d. Improving the mental health of people in the asylum system

There is considerable evidence to suggest a strong and positive link between employment and mental health. Data from the NHS shows that employed adults are less likely to have a common mental health problem than those who are unemployed. [3] Research also suggests a link between unemployment and depression, with the latter worsening when people lack the support networks provided by friends and families (as is the case for many in the asylum system). [4]

Research into mental health outcomes in people seeking asylum has shown that unemployed people in the asylum system were more than twice as likely to have major depressive disorder. A 2013 Australian study with 29 people seeking asylum, who had no right to work, found that participants most commonly identified not having the right to work as the biggest challenge they face in their new communities. [5]

Giving people the right to work whilst waiting for a decision on their asylum claim, something that can take months or even years, would allow them to move on with their lives, fill their time, and give them a sense of progression and development. Ultimately, it would contribute significantly to alleviating some of the mental distress experienced by those in the asylum system.

e. Help to challenge forced labour, exploitation, and modern slavery

Evidence suggests that a change in policy which allows people seeking asylum to work could help in the fight against forced labour. Long periods spent in poverty, without the right to work, make people more vulnerable to exploitation, including exploitative labour. One recent study that explored experiences of forced labour among people seeking asylum in England found that "the experience of severely exploitative labour, including forced labour, is often unavoidable for refugees and asylum seekers in order to meet the basic needs of themselves and their families." [6] The OECD has found that legal barriers to employment risk people resorting to informal work. [7] Giving people seeking asylum permission to work earlier in the process may help to tackle this, thus helping to reinforce the Government’s efforts to end forced labour and exploitation.

f. Benefiting the UK economy by allowing people seeking asylum to contribute, and reducing the costs associated with asylum support

There is a compelling financial argument for granting people seeking asylum the right to work. The Lift the Ban coalition has estimated that the Government could save around £42.4 million by ceasing payment of subsistence (cash) support to people seeking asylum and the extra money received by the exchequer through payroll contributions from income tax and national insurance.

g. Delivering evidence-based, popular and pragmatic policy change.

Polling undertaken in 2018 with a wide cross-section of the UK population showed that 71% of people polled agreed with the statement, "When people come to the UK seeking asylum it is important they integrate, learn English and get to know people. It would help integration if asylum-seekers were allowed to work if their claim takes more than six months to process." This statement united people whose views on migration otherwise vary widely – with only 8% of those polled disagreeing – as well as those with different views on key political topics such as Brexit: 63% of Leave voters and 78% of Remain voters agreed that asylum seekers should be allowed to work. [8]

What are the arguments against reform?

The right to work as a ‘pull factor’

6. T he 2018 report by the Lift the Ban coalition found that there is no published evidence to support the lo ng-term validity that the right to work act s as a pull factor . S tudies that do exist show that there is little to no evidence of a link between economic rights and entitlements and the destination choices of those seeking asylum. To the extent that a deliberate choice is made at all, the elements shaping such decisions are generally determined by colonial links , language skills , the presence of relatives and friends in the host country, and the belief tha t the host country is safe, toler ant and democratic – not a specific knowledge of the conditions of reception upon arrival. Of the 246 people who responded to a survey carried out by Lift the Ban coalition members , 72% stated that they had not known prior to arriving in the UK that people seeking asylum are not allowed to work.

7. If the right to work is granted after 6 months it is unlikely to make it more attractive to seek asylum in the UK for those motivated by economic reasons. Those with economic motivations are un likely to make an asylum application and bring themselves to the attention of the authorities, on the basis that they will not have received an initial decision in six months and might then be able to apply for the right to work. Were an economic migrant to do this, their asylum claim would be resolved long before the six month threshold after which an applicant could seek permission to work, a fact that the Government has accepted.

8. The Government’s opposition to granting permission to work after six months is made on the basis that it might lead to an increase in unfounded claims, despite generally accepting that it has no evidence to support this position. Indeed, the Government itself has previously conceded that "it may be broadly true" that "there is little hard evidence that the change you propose (to allow asylum seekers to work after six months) would result in more asylum applications." [9]

Labour market impact

9. Concerns have been raised that the proposed change would have a negative impact on the UK labour market - by creating further competition for those who are currently out of work. However, it is important to note that while this policy would have a huge impact on the lives of individuals who are waiting in the asylum system, its impact on the labour market would be negligible. Based on current figures, the proposal would provide the right to work for approximately 11,000 people. Even if we assumed a 50% employment rate, then the actual number entering the workforce would be c.5,500 who would be dispersed around the country in line with the Home Office’s asylum dispersal policy. It is unlikely this figure would make a dent in the UK’s current workforce of 34.26 million. In addition, as noted above, those who are forced to live on inadequate support for extended periods of time are more likely to resort to illegal work which is often extremely exploitative and undermines labour standards more generally .

Conclusion

10. Granting the right to work to asylum seekers who have been waiting for an initial decision for more than six months will help to avoid the negative impacts of prolonged forced inactivity and impoverishment, and allow them to contribute to the economy. This will deliver financial savings to the Government and the taxpayer, as asylum seekers who are working will need less financial support. This policy has support from MPs across the political spectrum. Broad-based support for this policy exists outside parliament, as reflected in the membership of the Lift the Ban coalition, which includes the CBI and TUC, think tanks like the Adam Smith Institute and Bright Blue, the Church of England and Church of Scotland, and a growing number of city councils which have noted that this would also increase buy-in to the asylum dispersal system.


February 2019

Appendix I: Full list of members of the Lift the Ban Coalition

1. Action for Refugees in Lewisham

2. Action Foundation

3. Adam Smith Institute

4. Afghan Association

5. African Rainbow Family

6. Amnesty International UK

7. Ashley Community Housing

8. Asylum Link Merseyside

9. Asylum Matters

10. B&D Council for Voluntary Service

11. Baobab

12. Baptists Together

13. Beacon Bradford

14. Ben & Jerry's

15. Birmingham Community Law Centre

16. Blackburn YMCA

17. Boaz Trust

18. Breadwinners

19. Bright Blue

20. Bristol Hospitality Network

21. British Future

22. British Red Cross

23. The Business Group Salford

24. CARAG

25. Caras

26. CBI

27. Child Poverty Action Group

28. Church of England

29. Church of Scotland

30. Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

31. Citizens Advice North Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent

32. City of Sanctuary

33. Community Arts North West

34. Community Foundation Northern Ireland

35. Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre

36. Cranhill Development Trust

37. Creative Youth Network

38. Crisis

39. DASH - Huddersfield

40. Displaced People in Action

41. ECPAT UK

42. Entraide

43. Escape the City

44. Ethnic Youth Support Team

45. Fatima House

46. First Wednesday LGBT Asylum Support Group

47. Freedom from Torture

48. Friends of the Drop in for Asylum Seekers and Refugees

49. Friends without Borders

50. Gateshead City Council

51. Glasgow Homelessness Network

52. Global Future

53. Global Link

54. Good Chance Theatre

55. Greater Lincolnshire Area of Sanctuary

56. Greater Manchester Humanists

57. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit

58. Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees

59. Helen Bamber Foundation

60. Help Refugees

61. Help the Homeless - University of Liverpool

62. Hope at Home

63. Ice and Fire Theatre Group

64. IMIX

65. JCORE (The Jewish Council for Racial Equality)

66. Jesuit Refugee Service

67. Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

68. Joint Policy Issues Team (Church of Scotland, United Reformed Church, Baptist Union of Great Britain, The Methodist Church)

69. Lambeth Law Centre

70. Law Centre NI

71. Law Centres Network

72. Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network

73. Leeds City of Sanctuary

74. Lesbian Immigration Support Group

75. Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network

76. Liberty

77. Local Welcome

78. London Network of Churches

79. Look Ahead

80. LSGMigrants

81. Mafwa Theatre

82. Manchester Migrant Solidarity

83. Maryhill Integration Network

84. Micro Rainbow International

85. Mid Wales Refugee Action

86. Migrant Resource Centre/Asylum Aid

87. Migrant Rights Network

88. Migrant Voice

89. Migrants Organise

90. Migrants Organising For Rights and Empowerment

91. Migration and Asylum Justice

92. Migrateful

93. NACCOM

94. NASUWT

95. Newcastle City Council

96. Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service

97. No More Traffik

98. North of England Refugee Service

99. Northern Ireland Community of Refugees & Asylum-Seekers

100. Oasis Cardiff

101. Olmec

102. Oxfam

103. Open Door North East

104. PAFRAS

105. Positive Action in Housing

106. Praxis

107. Quakers

108. Race on the Agenda

109. RAMP

110. RAS Voice

111. Reading Refugee Support Group

112. Refugee & Migrant Forum of Essex and London - RAMFEL

113. Refugee Action

114. Refugee and Migrant Centre

115. Refugee Council

116. Refugee Survival Trust

117. Refugee Women Connect

118. Regional Refugee Forum North East

119. Restore

120. Right to Remain

121. Right to work UK

122. Rivers of Gold

123. Riverside Community Health Project

124. Room to Heal

125. Routes

126. Runnymede Trust

127. Salvation Army

128. Scottish Refugee Council

129. Shiva Foundation

130. Shpresa Programme

131. SINGA

132. Social Workers without Borders

133. Sona Circle

134. "South Yorkshire Migration

135. and Asylum Action Group"

136. Speak Street

137. St. Augustine's Centre Halifax

138. St. Chad's Sanctuary

139. Student Action for Refugees

140. Tai Pawb

141. Tees Lanka

142. The Bike Project

143. The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network

144. The Entrepreneurs Network

145. The Methodist Church

146. The Trussell Trust

147. The Welcoming

148. TUC

149. UKLGIG

150. Unison

151. United Reformed Church

152. Unseen

153. Veeloop

154. Waging Peace

155. War on Want

156. Welsh Refugee Coalition

157. Welsh Refugee Council

158. Women for Refugee Women

159. WomenCentre

160. Young Roots


[1] See Lift the Ban (2018) ‘Lift the Ban: Why People Seeking Asylum Should have the Right to Work’, London, available at: http://lifttheban.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Lift-the-Ban-report.pdf

[2] See Office for National Statistics (2014) ‘Income, Expenditure and Personal Well-being, 2011/12’, available at: http://webarchive. nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160107224013/http:/www.ons.gov.uk/ ons/dcp171766_365207.pdf

[3] See the 2007 and 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys, which look at the mental health and wellbeing of people in England, available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/ adult-psychiatric-morbidity-survey . Also see Sally McManus, Paul Bebbington, Rachel Jenkins and Traolach Brugha (eds.) (2016) ‘Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014’ (NHS Digital: Leeds), available at: https://files.digital.nhs.uk/ pdf/q/3/mental_health_and_wellbeing_in_england_full_report.pdf

[4] Margaret Linn, Richard Sandifer and Shayna Stein (1985) ‘Effects on unemployment on mental and physical health’, American Journal of Public Health 75(5): 502-506.

[5] Lisa Hartley and Caroline Fleay (2014) ‘Policy as Punishment: Asylum Seekers in the Community Without the Right to Work’, available at: http://www.nwhn.net.au/admin/file/content101/c6/CHRE_PolicyAsPunishmentAsylumSeekersInTheCommunityWithoutTheRightToWork_Feb_2014.pdf

[6] Hannah Lewis et al. (2013) Precarious lives: Experiences of forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers in England, Research Report, University of Leeds.

[7] OECD (2016) ‘Making Integration Work: Refugees and others in need of protection’ (OECD, Paris), available at: https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/makingintegration-work-humanitarian-migrants_9789264251236-en#page69

[8] Jill Rutter and Rosie Carter (2018) ‘National Conversation on Immigration: Final report’, available at: http://www.britishfuture.org/ articles/national-conversation-final-report/

[9] Letter from Earl Attlee to Lord Roberts, 31 March 2014

 

Prepared 14th February 2019