The Home Office has a commitment to decide on asylum applications within six months, yet this deadline is often missed. For many people arriving in this country fleeing war, persecution and disaster, this means their lives are put on hold indefinitely, often for years. During this time they cannot work. In addition, they cannot access public funds, which includes NHS services many of us take for granted.
Refugees want to work and contribute to society, but incompetence at the Home Office is preventing them from doing so. Today I put this to Caroline Nokes, Immigration Minister.
She replied that she will be putting a particular focus on helping those ‘with status’ get in to work. But what about the thousands of people who are waiting for that status? The backlog of asylum applications taking more than six months has risen rapidly in recent years, from less than 5,000 in 2010 to more than 10,000 at the end of 2017.
I am concerned that preventing refugees from working is not an accident, but part of the Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, which aims to put people under emotional strain, forcing them to leave the country. I find this approach inhumane and disgusting. It must end.
Refugees often have valuable skills – we should absolutely make use these talents, as many other countries do. They arrive here through no fault of their own. The least we can do is allow them to contribute to our economy.
I will be lobbying the government hard on this when their Immigration Bill eventually appears.