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Help us ensure the talents of people seeking asylum aren’t wasted (Refugee Action)
Help us ensure the talents of people seeking asylum aren’t wasted (Refugee Action)
REC View & Campaigns 03rd Jul 2019

Having the right to work to provide for our families and be an active member of the community is something that most of us just take for granted. Yet for people who flee war and persecution and come to the UK seeking safety, they are denied that right – and forced into a life of poverty by being banned from working.

People seeking asylum in the UK are only able to apply for the right to work after they have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for over a year. Even then, the few people who are granted permission are rarely able to work because they’re restricted to an incredibly narrow list of jobs such as classical ballet dancer and nuclear medicine practitioner. It just doesn’t make sense.

We know that if half of the people seeking asylum were granted the right to work and earned a national average wage, £42.4 million would be recouped by the government through tax and national insurance payments and savings in financial support.  

The public is in favour of lifting the ban with 71% agreeing that people seeking asylum should have the right to work; and MPs of all parties have strongly backed the call in parliament.

A survey we conducted last year of people with direct experience of the asylum process revealed that 74% had secondary-level education or higher and over a third held an undergraduate or postgraduate university degree. It is shameful that we are letting these talents go to waste for months or even years on end.

That’s why we at Refugee Action, together with our partners at Asylum Matters, are leading a coalition of over 190 members to urge the government to Lift the Ban stopping people seeking asylum from working.

Members of the Lift The Ban coalition include the CBI, TUC and other trade unions, think tanks, faith groups and businesses like Ben and Jerry’s.

Together, we’re calling for the UK to give people seeking asylum the right to work after six months, without narrow restrictions on the type of jobs they can apply for - a move which would bring us in line with every comparable nation.   

We’re thrilled to now have REC on board to bring its expertise in the workplace to help us champion the rights of those who have so many skills to offer.  

We want to see the government move rapidly on this issue – which is why we need you to join us, add your voice and help us Lift The Ban.

For more information on joining the coalition, please email

Paul Hook, Head of Campaigns, Refugee Action
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