Labour vows to help asylum seekers avoid modern slavery by allowing them to work legally

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has pledged to allow asylum seekers to work legally in the UK in order to help them avoid black economy abuses like modern slavery.

25 Oct 2018| News

Image: "Precarious Labour Strikes Back" by War on Want is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“The Tories have made integration and tackling modern slavery key planks of their policy agenda, but they are both actively undermined by restrictions on the right to work,” she said.

Currently, asylum seekers are not permitted to seek employment until they have been waiting for a decision on their claim for 12 months and are qualified for a role on the shortage occupations list.

On Wednesday, Tory MP Caroline Spelman told the House of Commons that asylum seekers currently have to live on £5.39 a day. She tabled a debate on the issue following the success of the Lift the Ban campaign, which was run by a coalition of 80 groups, including non-profit organisations, think tank and businesses. The campaign estimates that allowing asylum seekers to work would contribute at least £9.2m to the economy, while Spelman focused on the benefits to the mental health of refugees who are able to work.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said she would consider the arguments for allowing asylum seekers to work, “it’s important to recognise there’s a balance to be struck”.

But Abbott said the Labour Party was “committed” to reform.

“We’re committed to treating people who claim asylum with dignity and respect, and we’re announcing that Labour in government would allow asylum seekers to work after six months – unconstrained by the shortage occupation list,” she said.