WESTMINSTER will today be challenged to return the right to work for asylum seekers 15 years after stripping it away.
It has been against the law for those applying for sanctuary in the UK to enter paid employment since 2002, leaving would-be citizens reliant on state or charitable support.
Last month a paper by Warwick University found scrapping the rule could save tens of millions of pounds of public money.
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Now Scots MP Alison Thewliss, a prominent campaigner on immigration, work and welfare issues, will call on ministers to overturn the rule.
The call follows work with a number of constituents in her Glasgow Central seat.
Yesterday Thewliss said: “For far too long, under successive governments, asylum seekers have too often been viewed with scepticism and treated with contempt. Today’s debate is a real opportunity to refocus and remember the origins of the word asylum – that is the protection granted by a state to someone who has left their home country as a political refugee.”
She went on: “The increasingly poor treatment of asylum seekers and the removal of the most basic rights is nothing short of degrading and simply adds further misery to those who have fled persecution.
“I know from speaking to some of the asylum-seeking constituents I represent that life is made ever more difficult due to the draconian restrictions placed upon them by the UK Government. These restrictions range from the threat of detention right through to the ban on working.
“We know that permitting asylum seekers to work would allow them to integrate better into society, develop their English and make friends in what can often be a lonely and new environment. Many are professionals with skills they would love to put to use. This powerful working paper from Warwick University also sets out the significant savings that the government could make if it made a fairly modest change to the immigration rules.”
Thewliss will also use the debate to highlight the case of Olivier Mondeke Monongo, an assistant mental health nurse, court translator and Christian pastor denied citizenship as a result of volunteering with the British Red Cross and Bridgeton Citizens Advice in Glasgow.
As exclusively revealed in The National, he won right to remain but officials said the unpaid charity translation help for vulnerable people was a breach of immigration work rules and refused to give him the chance to become a British citizen due to his “bad character”.
The decision means he cannot take his five children on a foreign holiday until at least 2020, which is the earliest date that the decision can be reviewed under Home Office rules.
Thewliss said: “The Government views certain cases of volunteering as being a sign of ‘bad character’. This is absolutely ludicrous and I’ll be looking for answers from ministers.”