Lift the Ban: Why Giving People Seeking Asylum The Right To Work Is Common Sense

The Lift The Ban coalition today publishes a new report which sets out why giving people seeking asylum the right to work would boost the UK economy; and allow people to use their skills and experience, including in the response to Covid-19.

The report – Lift the Ban: why giving people seeking asylum the right to work is common sense – shows almost half of people seeking asylum would be defined as “critical workers”, according to a survey on participants’ occupations before coming to the UK; of which one in seven had previously worked in health or social care. Furthermore, the report calculates giving people seeking asylum the right to work would benefit the public purse by an estimated £98m a year.

Currently, people seeking asylum are effectively banned from getting a job while waiting for a decision on their claim – which often takes years – and instead must exist on a meagre level of statutory support of just £5.66 a day, which frequently leads to destitution and adversely impacts their physical and mental health.

Tabita, a campaigner for #LiftTheBan in Yorkshire, told us:

“It’s like I know how to fly, but they have cut my wings. I can earn for myself and I can live a quality life, so it hurts when you see yourself. You feel that you are just wasting your life. Work gives you a chance to live for yourself and live for others.”

The Lift The Ban coalition – made up of more than 240 charities, businesses, trade unions, faith groups and think-tanks from across the UK –  is calling on the UK Government to reform the rules so that people seeking asylum are allowed to work after waiting for six months for a decision on their asylum claim.

At the moment, the Government’s rules mean that people can only apply for the right to work after 12 months and are restricted to a small number of specialist roles on the Government’s Shortage Occupation List, which includes classical ballet dancer and hydrogeologist. By March 2020, 32,000 people had been waiting more than six months for a decision on their initial asylum claim – the highest number since records began, accounting for 61% of all those waiting for a decision and a 13% increase on the previous year.

The report also highlights that the UK has far more restrictive waiting periods and rules for people seeking asylum getting work than most comparable nations, including Australia, the US, Canada and almost every other European country.

The Lift The Ban coalition believes reform is necessary in order to:

  • Strengthen people’s chances of being able to integrate into their new communities
  • Allow people seeking asylum to live in dignity and to provide for themselves and their families
  • Give people the opportunity to use their skills and make the most of their potential
  • Improve the mental health of people in the asylum system
  • Help to challenge forced labour, exploitation, and modern slavery

The case for change has strong support among the public and businesses, with polls showing 71% of people in the UK and more than two-thirds of business leaders backing reform.

For more information on the campaign and how you can get involved, see or email lifttheban[at]

You can read the report in full, here:

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