Priti Patel is facing growing pleas to let 70,000 claimants seek employment pending a resolution of their status
Priti Patel’s department is resisting growing demands to allow asylum seekers to work following a public intervention from her cabinet colleague Dominic Raab to say that he would be “open-minded’ about the proposal.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, Conservative MPs and refugee charities have all called for the Home Office to allow 70,000 current claimants to seek employment after the justice secretary said a rule change could help to solve the UK’s current labour shortage.
But in testy comments that reveal frustration at Raab’s words, a senior Whitehall source said that if applications to seek employment were allowed, it would “create a pull factor for illegal immigration like never before”. “It would drive a coach and horses though our legitimate immigration system. We would see people who want to come here to work avoiding the system by just arriving and claiming asylum, before starting work the next day,” the source said.
Most asylum seekers are not allowed to work while their case is considered and instead rely on the government for housing and essential living needs. The Home Office has been reviewing the rules around allowing asylum seekers to work for three years.
The latest data shows that over 70,000 people were waiting for a UK decision on their initial asylum application – up 73% over the past two years despite a decline in the number of applicants.
Meanwhile, resettlement of refugees has not increased at the same rate. Only 308 refugees were resettled in Q2 2021, compared to a quarterly average of over 1,400 from 2016 to 2019.