Sheffield Lift the Ban campaign calls for asylum seekers to have the right to work

A city coalition calling for the right for asylum seekers to work is officially launching its Lift the Ban campaign at Sheffield Town Hall.
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Sheffield City Council in July passed a motion agreeing to reaffirm its status as the first City of Sanctuary and oppose government measures such as the Illegal Migration Bill. The motion also agreed to support the Lift the Ban Coalition, a campaign to overturn laws preventing asylum seekers in the UK from seeking work.

The coalition says that “the government’s inability to process asylum claims fairly and efficiently means that there are now 124,461 people who have been waiting six months or more for a decision on their asylum claim”.

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New statistics released by the government show that there are 11,490 people living on asylum support in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Lift the Ban campaigners outside the City of Sanctuary Sheffield offices on Chapel Walk, SheffieldLift the Ban campaigners outside the City of Sanctuary Sheffield offices on Chapel Walk, Sheffield
Lift the Ban campaigners outside the City of Sanctuary Sheffield offices on Chapel Walk, Sheffield

The coalition argues that people seeking asylum must be given the right to work after six months, and should be unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List. This is a list of job areas where there are staff shortages and the government will consider granting skilled worker visas to do those jobs at 80 per cent of the going rate of pay for that type of role.

The coalition is made up of more than 300 businesses, recruiters, think tanks, trade unions, asylum charities and faith groups. These include City of Sanctuary Sheffield, Student Action for Refugees, Chile Solidarity Network, Migrant Organise, ASSIST, Learn for Life, Refugee Council, SYMAAG, Yorkshire Migrant Solidarity Network, Stand Up to Racism, Jubilee Movement, Nam Song restaurant, Unite Sheffield NFP, Unison Sheffield Hallam University Branch, IWW Sheffield, SBC Theatre and people with lived experience of seeking sanctuary.

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Based on today’s figures, the coalition says that the work ban costs the UK taxpayer £472,345,102.41 every year in missed taxes and National Insurance, as well as asylum support.

Lift the Ban campaigners and senior sociology lecturer Dr Lucy Mayblin, second right, an expert in migration issues, at a University of Sheffield eventLift the Ban campaigners and senior sociology lecturer Dr Lucy Mayblin, second right, an expert in migration issues, at a University of Sheffield event
Lift the Ban campaigners and senior sociology lecturer Dr Lucy Mayblin, second right, an expert in migration issues, at a University of Sheffield event

The campaign argues that the right to work would help reduce the number of new refugees being made homeless after being given just seven days to move out of asylum accommodation.

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Melinda Mo-Martinez, City of Sanctuary Sheffield advocacy and system change coordinator, said: “Lift the Ban is about dignity, meaning for their lives, providing for their families and integration within our communities. Sheffield has a long tradition of fighting for the rights of those whose voices have been silenced and this is an opportunity to continue that tradition.

“Ultimately, this is not just about people seeking sanctuary but about who we want to be as a city.

“Giving people the right to work is such a positive, commonsense change that would bring such incredible benefits to the country.”

Aso Mohammadi, a journalist who has been given refugee protection, explained what the ban means to people seeking asylum: “It means that you do not consider me worthy of work, while I have skills and am worthy of work.

“People (asylum seekers) need work more than all people in society. Not as a special right but as a basic need. Because they have lost everything, they have left everything behind.

“With these anti-immigration, discriminatory and cruel policies, including the ban on work, you have cut off the breath of our life. We cannot breathe. Please open the space.”

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Lift the Ban campaigners will be holding an event at Sheffield Town Hall on December 15 to launch the local campaign to win the right to work for people seeking asylum, ending what they say is a “huge injustice”.

Successive governments have maintained that easing work restrictions could draw asylum seekers to the UK because they believe that the reception conditions here are more favourable.

They point to a potential increase in applications from “economic migrants” whose primary motivation for coming to the UK is to work rather than seek safety.