‘Doctors sit in hotels doing nothing’: Almost 70% of businesses support asylum seekers entering work sooner

Businesses believe asylum seekers would positively impact the economy, polling shows  (PA Wire)
Businesses believe asylum seekers would positively impact the economy, polling shows (PA Wire)

Almost 70 per cent of UK businesses support asylum seekers being allowed to work sooner and believe it would positively impact the economy, new polling shows.

Sixty-eight percent of more than 2000 business decision makers are in favour of the Home Office allowing asylum seekers to start work after waiting six months for a decision on their claim, YouGov polling carried out by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) shows.

Sixty-four per cent of businesses believe this would have a positive impact on the UK economy as a whole, a new IRC report reveals.

Asylum seekers currently have to wait 12 months before they can apply for work.

Kenny Mayorga, 25, who fled his country in October and has lived in a hotel for three months, said being given the right to work would be life-changing.

“It will be so, so important and not only for us, but for the country because we can become taxpayers, we can become [part of the] workforce for the UK and help to recover the economy,” the video journalist told the Standard.

“Not having the right to work can have damaging consequences for our mental health and physical health.”

IRC Acting Head of Programmes Emery Igiraneza said it would save the Government millions of pounds in hotel fees.

The Government is spending almost £7 million a day housing asylum seekers in hotels and the costs could rise, MPs were told in October.

“A lot of asylum seekers are very good English speakers so they don’t need anything,” Mr Igiraneza told the Standard.

“Many of them are qualified professionals in sectors that the UK is struggling to fill with staff, such as the NHS and engineering.

“All these people, medical doctors, nurses, who are sitting in hotels doing nothing with very good English should just go straight to supporting their communities and the country.

“When they are allowed to work they will be able to ... rent their own home.”

Asylum seekers currently can take up jobs on the shortage occupation list if their claim has been outstanding for 12 months or more, through no fault of their own.

But the Home Office said allowing them the right to work sooner would undermine Britain’s “wider economic migration policy by enabling migrants to bypass work visa rules.”

“The UK has a proud history of providing protection for those who genuinely need it through our safe and legal routes, recently welcoming hundreds of thousands of people from Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Ukraine,” a spokesperson told the Standard.

However London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) told the Standard “there is both an economic and moral case for greater flexibility on this issue”.

Head of Policy and Public Impact James Watkins said: “Without access to the right talent, businesses are unable to operate to their potential...this has a wider knock-on effect for the UK economy as a whole.

“London has an ethical duty of care towards migrants who contribute immense value to the country, both economically and through expanding the cultural richness of the UK.

“Our policies should, therefore, be flexible to accommodate the best and the brightest from around the globe.”

The Home Office said it’s focusing resources on making faster decisions on asylum claims, to prevent people becoming stuck in the system for long periods of time.

The Home Office employs 1,280 asylum caseworkers, and is expecting the number to be closer to 1,800 by the summer, and 2,500 by September to deal with the major backlog.

Home Office Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Simon Murray told the House of Commons last month that allowing asylum seekers to work would create “a major pull factor” for more to cross the Channel in small boats.

But Mr Igiraneza said this view is “driven by a lack of understanding of the reality”.

“People who are asylum seekers are people whose lives are threatened and who are escaping persecution.

“These people don’t decide whether they can wait for a policy opportunity in one country or the other to flee their country.”

Mr Mayorga said everyone should have the right to work, especially those who flee persecution, dictatorship or even the threat of death in their home country.

“I’m really up to whatever it takes to get some money and to start my life again here.

“I really want to study again and go back [to being] a video journalist and do something for this country.”