End the counter-productive and costly ‘work ban’ on people seeking asylum

downloadThis article was published in Open Democracy

The UK ignores international conventions by preventing people seeking asylum from finding work. Relaxing the exceptionally stringent rules would boost the economy and could prove surprisingly popular.

9,380 people applied for asylum in the UK last year. This means that there were 5 applications for every 10,000 people living in the country. That’s little more than one third of the average in the European Union, which overall receives 14 applications per 10,000 people.

Despite the Government’s intentions to speed up the process, currently more than half of applicants waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim have been waiting for more than six months.

Since 2002, people seeking asylum in the UK are not allowed to work during the first year of their application. The UK is a continental outlier: no other country in Europe is so restrictive in denying people seeking asylum access to the labour market. Instead of the chance to earn a living for themselves and for their families, people seeking asylum are given a weekly cash allowance equivalent to just over £5 per day per person. At the end of 2018, there were 44,258 people receiving these payments.

Continue reading “End the counter-productive and costly ‘work ban’ on people seeking asylum”

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Britons’ fear of migration is not only anti-factual; it is also comparatively disproportionate

This article was published first in Left Foot Forward

cqk5itvwcauiysnI recently attended an event organised by the Foreign Policy Centre in partnership with the European Commission’s representation in the UK. The title could hardly be more topical: “Examining the EU’s democratic legitimacy”.

It really was about Brexit, like nearly every political debate in the UK for months if not years.

Hilary Benn delivered an eloquent keynote speech about the need of parliamentary oversight of the divorce process. After him, other articulate voices from both Chambers expressed their thoughts about the value of democracy, the history of Britain in Europe and the meaning of national and parliamentary sovereignty. Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and SNP had at least one voice in the panel; so did UKIP with its only MP (to Nigel Farage’s eternal sorrow), Douglas Carswell.

Judging by the interventions during the Q&A, had the referendum been held only in that room, Britain would have never chosen to leave; in fact, Conservatives would probably be a marginal force.

“How did we get to this point?” An incredulous audience asked with different words and tones.

“It’s immigration, stupid!”. The recurrent hypothesis was unsurprisingly put forward by Mr Carswell. It went unchallenged. It sinks in. It stays. And it stains. Continue reading “Britons’ fear of migration is not only anti-factual; it is also comparatively disproportionate”