Quaker MP brings ‘right to work’ bill

A Quaker MP has brought a bill to parliament seeking to give asylum seekers the right to work

Quaker Catharine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, brought a bill to parliament last month seeking to give asylum seekers the right to work. The MP brought the bill after a sustained ‘Lift the Ban’ campaign with cross-party support from Conservatives including Dame Caroline Spelman, Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine, Green Caroline Lucas and SNP Deidre Brock as co-sponsors.

Speaking in parliament on 20 February Catharine West said that her Ten Minute Rule Bill would empower refugees and asylum seekers to ‘rebuild their lives by allowing them to work and contribute to society’.

She said: ‘Under the current rules, asylum seekers are able to apply for the right to work only after they have been waiting for a decision on their claim for over a year. Even then the few people who are granted such permission are rarely able to work in practice because their employment is restricted to the narrow list of highly skilled professions included on the government’s Shortage Occupation List.’

The MP cited the example of one elderly man who had been waiting for a decision on his claim for twelve years. She said he was ‘desperate’ to work but is now being referred to mental health services. She said: ‘He is in utter despair at a system that has forced him out of employment and into poverty for so many years.’

Britain Yearly Meeting supported the call to ‘Lift The Ban’, tweeting on 20 February: ‘People seeking refugee status are banned from working, leaving many in poverty while they wait months, often years, for a decision on their asylum claim.’

The bill follows a sustained campaign and two private member bills driven by Catharine West and Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine.

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