Article 23 of the Declaration of Human Rights states:
“Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable working conditions and to protection against unemployment.”
Those seeking sanctuary in the UK are fortunate indeed if they feel welcomed here with such rights.
Only after a decision on their claim has been delayed for over 12 months may they start to apply for jobs. These, however, must figure on a very specialised list of occupations deemed difficult to fill and all must have been first offered to suitably qualified citizens of any of the EU’s 28 states.
Sanctuary seekers bring a wide range of skills and experience with them together with the unquestioned desire to work and to adapt these qualities to the special circumstances of Britain. They come from lands where there is no culture of state benefits and where, without the willingness to work, they could not feed or educate their children or buy hospital treatment for their parents.
Furthermore, what they offer this country, we need now, (or may well do so in an uncertain future).
Some are nurses who can care for our elderly with love and respect, others are agriculturalists able to support our own increasingly aging farmers. Some are builders or entrepreneurs who could help Britain expand her national housing stock or diversify and invigorate her vital SME base.
Of course there are also very many highly trained graduates seeking asylum here: accountants, lawyers, architects, engineers and social workers. All face the limitations described above with the additional requirement of re-qualification and registration with our appropriate professional bodies. All will need to adapt their expertise to the relevant British philosophies, regulations and practices.
Most doctors who flee from persecution, detention or torture have offended either by criticising the regime’s health policy, by asking for better working conditions, by treating sick or injured members of opposition movements or by refusing to cooperate in the abuse of prisoners and the falsification of their death certificates. They expect to support and treat patients here but, instead, they face barriers and disappointments, many ending up driving taxis or stacking supermarket shelves.
In the North West of England, an innovative programme is available for some sanctuary seekers who were health professionals in their own countries and hoped to work in the UK in due course. At Salford Royal Hospital, REACHE offers a comprehensive orientation in the acquisition of a high-level of English language and in an adjustment to the complex clinical & organisational protocols of the NHS. (https://reache.wordpress.com/).
Around 200 such sanctuary seekers have so far graduated from the REACHE process and are now working successfully in either community or hospital health care settings, though not always in their chosen specialties.
Many constituents are anxious to see changes in UK legislation to enable sanctuary seekers to work within 6 months of their application for asylum, as is the case in 11 other EU states. Early access to employment would decrease the cost to the taxpayer of asylum support, increase tax and NI revenues and, by maintaining occupational skills and personal dignity, reduce the social burden of the mental, physical and economic ill health that accompanies forced inactivity and destitution.
What’s not to like about this proposal?