BY CALUM FRASER
A campaign to give refugees the right to work before they are granted asylum has been launched.
The Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN), the largest charity supporting refugees in South-east London, is urging the Government to give asylum seekers the chance to work under the Lift the Ban campaign banner.
Refugees cannot be employed for the first 12 months of their time in the UK while seeking asylum in most circumstances, according to Government guidance.
This often leads to refugees being exploited on the black market or living in poverty, struggling to support themselves on a £5.39 per day allowance, according to LRMN.
Immigration manager Andrew Jordan said: “Asylum seekers in Lewisham have much to offer in talent, skill and willingness to work.
“By preventing them from working, local communities and businesses lose this great resource and are kept from growing and developing.
“By allowing asylum seekers to work, our communities will be stronger and more resilient.
Asylum seekers who can do so legally will be less open to exploitation and have better physical and mental health as they contribute meaningfully to society.”
The council wants Lewisham to be a “borough of sanctuary” by taking in 100 Syrian families.
Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan and the cabinet have agreed on a timetable for the first 100 families to be settled in the borough in early 2019.
So far, 15 families have moved to the borough as part of a national resettlement scheme.
Home Office guidance states that straightforward asylum cases should be resolved within six months, but if someone is made to wait longer than 12 months they can request permission to work.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Once an individual has been granted protection, they have immediate and unrestricted access to the labour market.
“However, asylum seekers are not normally allowed to work while their asylum claim is determined.
This is to protect the resident labour market and ensure access to employment is prioritised for British citizens and those lawfully resident here, including refugees.
Those who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, furnished accommodation and are provided a cash allowance to cover other essential living needs.”