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Asylum

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 14 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what evidence there is that the policy before 2002 of allowing asylum seekers who had waited more than six months for a decision on their claim to apply for permission to work was a pull factor for asylum seekers to come to the UK; and if he will make a statement. (305956)

The Government believe that managed migration is a valuable source of skills and labour to the British economy and there are recognised routes into the UK for those seeking to work. However, entering the country for economic reasons is not the same as seeking asylum, and it is important to maintain the distinction between the two.

Giving asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers permission to work would be likely to encourage asylum applications from those without a well-founded fear of persecution, hence slowing down the processing of applications made by genuine refugees and undermining the integrity of the managed migration system. Indeed, asylum intake has dropped significantly since the policy change in 2002.

This is why we do not generally allow asylum seekers to work while their claim for asylum is under consideration. The only exception is asylum seekers who have been waiting 12 months for a decision where this delay cannot be attributed to them. This is consistent with our obligations under the EC reception directive.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications for permission to work were (a) made by asylum seekers and (b) granted in each year since 2000. (305957)

The requested information on the number of applications for permission to work made by asylum seekers and those granted since 2000 is not collated and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost through examination of individual case records.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the potential savings that could be made by allowing asylum seekers who have waited more than six months for a decision on their claim to undertake paid work so that they would not be dependent on support from the public purse. (305958)

No formal estimate has been made to date. However, the Government consider that while allowing asylum seekers to work may increase tax revenue this has to be balanced finely against the very real concern that allowing employment will act as a pull factor, and that the UK may subsequently receive an increase in the number of unfounded asylum applications as a result. We also have to consider the potential that this may have to delay the processing of asylum claims which would lead to more hardship, not less and more demands on the public purse as well as an increase in exploitation by traffickers.