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Opinion: Why asylum seekers should be allowed limited work permits

All sectors from farming and food production, hospitality and leisure are experiencing labour shortages across the country.

It is absurd to see quality, nutritious food being wasted at the time when families across the country are struggling with the high cost of living. Currently, there are an estimated 500,000 job vacancies for farm workers.

According to UK Hospitality, staff shortages in the hospitality industry are similarly reaching critical levels, causing nearly half of operators to cut trading hours or capacity in order to survive, costing the industry £21bn in lost revenue and causing an estimated £5bn loss to the Exchequer.

Chronic staff shortages mean that all businesses, including farmers, growers, wholesalers, caterers and manufacturers have to offer higher wage incentives to retain and recruit staff, increasing costs and impacting profits still more.

Supply chain chaos, spiralling inflation, phosphate complications are combining with this vanishing pool of workers to ramp up the financial pressure on other industries too, such as construction. For some the burden is too much and this is pushing them over the edge.

On the other hand the UK is spending £7m a day on hotels alone for asylum seekers who have fled their county for variety of reasons. The Home Affairs Committee have been told recently that the cost is likely to go on rising.

On top of this cost, Home Secretary Suella Braverman - back in the job after resigning for a week for a security breach wishes to send asylum seekers who arrived in the UK after 1 January 2022, to Rwanda for the extra cost of £1.4bn a year, according to the Refugee Council!

That will mean unnecessarily spending £1.4bn of taxpayers’ money, on around 500 asylum seekers, such as those forced to travel in small boats, when all successful asylum seekers (20,000 won asylum, including family reunions last year) only make up 8% of the 239,000 legally allowed to migrate into the UK last year (net); all potentially contrary to the UN Convention on Refugees.

We can and should turn this problem into an opportunity for our economy as well to respect international law and the UN Convention by providing safe routes to the UK to apply for asylum and if the Home Secretary wishes to prosecute individuals she ought to start with human traffickers!

Why can’t we give at least asylum seekers a limited work permit and allow them to earn their living whilst their asylum applications are being processed?

As Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine MP has said, “People who’ve come to the UK having fled war or persecution should not be trapped for months on just £5.39 a day.

Ministers should give all asylum seekers the right to work, allowing them to fill essential roles, as well as giving them a sense of dignity, more money and the ability to contribute to the economy”. This would save the taxpayers some money while filling some of our much needed labour shortages.

About the Author: Phil Hill is Chief Report for the Somerset County Gazette.


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