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UK politics

Let’s get asylum seekers working

Migrants disembarking in Dungeness, Kent. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Here’s one way to fill some of the million vacancies crippling British employers, says Polly Toynbee in The Guardian: get asylum seekers working. There are currently 125,000 people awaiting a decision on their claim or appeal, most of them “young, fit and eager to work”. The overwhelming majority are “here to stay” because it’s “virtually impossible” to get other countries to accept them: in 2019 Britain forced only 4,000 rejected asylum seekers to depart. Yet the Home Office’s “draconian rules” forbid them from getting a job.

The government argues that giving asylum seekers the right to work would incentivise them to come here rather than go elsewhere. But that “quite deliberately” ignores research showing that “new arrivals know nothing about rules on work or benefits”. In reality the biggest “pull factors” are Britain’s ancient reputation for upholding human rights and the presence of relatives already settled here – both factors no immigration policy will alter. Boris Johnson probably won’t change course on this. He thinks anti-immigration rhetoric helped secure his “great Brexit victory” and 80-seat majority. But it’s something on which he’d have the public’s support. Polls show that more than 70% think asylum seekers “should be allowed to earn their keep”. For everyone’s sake, the government should reconsider this “bogus” policy.