Let asylum seekers work to solve the jobs crisis, Priti Patel urged

Allow asylum seekers to work in bid to solve the recruitment crisis and lower benefits bill, Priti Patel is urged

  • Migration Advisory Committee urged rules on migrants working be relaxed
  • Report also called for lifting of ban on asylum seekers working upon arrival
  • It rejected Home Office fears that lifting ban would encourage more to arrive 

Immigration rules should be relaxed immediately to let migrants and asylum seekers fill employment gaps in the UK’s struggling social care sector, government advisers have recommended.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has advised Priti Patel to add care workers to Britain’s shortage occupation list, due to the ‘severe and increasing difficulties faced by the sector’. 

Once a certain occupation is added to the list, it makes it easier for migrants to get visas as the minimum salary threshold for that job is reduced to £20,480. 

It also removes other criteria, including English language requirements.  

While ‘senior’ care workers were added to the list in March, the home secretary has refused to add all levels of foreign care workers, demanding domestic workers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic fill the vacancies instead. 

MAC also wants asylum seekers to be allowed to work while awaiting the outcome of their applications to live in the UK, with similar moves being supported by rights campaigners and the Labour Party. 

Currently, asylum seekers can only start a job if they have been waiting to hear back for at least 12 months – and the role must be on the shortage list.  

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has advised Priti Patel (pictured) to add care workers to Britain’s shortage occupation list, due to the ‘severe and increasing difficulties faced by the care sector’ 

A group of migrants arrive to Dover on Wednesday, performing a V for victory sign with their fingers 

The Home Office fears making it easier for asylum seekers to work will only increase the ‘pull factor’ for illegal immigration and encourage more to travel to Britain.   

But MAC refuted such fears in its annual report on Wednesday, saying there was ‘clear evidence’ that the current ban on asylum seekers working in the UK harmed their individual ability to integrate – as well as the wider UK economy. 

The report said: ‘The harm is exacerbated by the increasing numbers of asylum seekers who are having to wait over six months for an initial decision on their application.’ 

It added that there was ‘little evidence’ that the ban provided ‘significant benefits’.

Professor Brian Bell, the committee’s chairman, added that the work ban also hit tax revenues because those who were granted asylum were more likely to end up unemployed or in low-paid jobs.   

Mr Bell said: ‘The evidence is clear: the current approach delays integration and has a detrimental impact on those seeking protection. 

‘That is why we have recommended the government looks again at this issue and considers granting asylum seekers the right to work while their application is pending.’

The recommendation came amid preliminary findings from an independent review from MAC on the effect that ending freedom of movement after Brexit was having on the UK’s social care sector and its workers. 

The report said: ‘We are currently in the middle of a commission investigating the impact of the ending of freedom of movement on the adult social care sector.

‘We provide an update in this report on our preliminary findings and unusually are taking the opportunity to make a formal recommendation to the government.

‘Given the severe and increasing difficulties the sector is facing in terms of both recruitment and retention, we are recommending that care worker jobs immediately be made eligible for the health and care visa and placed on the shortage occupation list.’

It comes as Ms Patel is being taken to court over another Brexit rule change that could see up to two million EU citizens living in Britain stripped of their right to work or even deported.

Under a deal agreed with Brussels, Europeans who could prove they had been in Britain for five years or more were eligible for ‘settled status’, while those who could not were granted ‘pre-settled status’.

Now the Independent Monitoring Authority set up to oversee implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement says that the Home Office is demanding that those who were granted pre-settled status reapply for the main scheme.

Failure to do could see them unable to work or access UK benefits and in some cases be forced to leave the UK under changes that could come into force as soon as 2023, the IMA says.

It is seeking a judicial review of the change, saying it contravenes the Citizens Rights Agreements between the UK and the EU.

Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, chief executive of the IMA, added: ‘In taking legal action now we hope to provide clarity for those citizens with pre-settled status, of which there are 2.485 million as of November 30 2021.’

The Government is accused of ‘failure to correctly implement the United Kingdom’s obligations’ under the treaty.

‘The issue is that the Secretary of State maintains that those qualifying EU and EEA EFTA citizens who successfully applied for pre-settled status may subsequently lose it entirely if they later fail to make a second application,’ it continues.

‘Such individuals are required to make a second application within five years of the grant of pre-settled status, either for settled status under the EUSS (once they qualify for permanent residence), or for a further period of pre-settled status. 

‘But if they fail to apply for either status, the Secretary of State will consider them to be unlawfully present in the UK by reason of that failure. 

‘The result is that they will be exposed to considerable serious consequences affecting their right to live, work and access social security support in the UK. 

‘The Claimant contends that this is incompatible with the Agreements, which do not provide for loss of status in such circumstances.’

Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, chief executive of the IMA, added: ‘In taking legal action now we hope to provide clarity for those citizens with pre-settled status, of which there are 2.485 million as of November 30 2021.’

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We take our citizens’ rights obligations very seriously and have implemented the arrangements we agreed under the Withdrawal Agreement in good faith.

‘The Government does not agree with the Independent Monitoring Authority’s analysis of the Withdrawal Agreement. 

‘It has been the UK Government’s longstanding position that people with pre-settled status will have to apply for settled status before their pre-settled status expires to stay in the UK.’

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