Lift The Ban

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A few weeks ago, Ben and Jerry’s were on campus and promoting the Lift the Ban campaign for asylum seekers’ right to work in the UK, or as most of you will remember it: giving out free ice cream for a good cause – a great combination at that! In this article I’m going to talk more about the campaign’s cause, why it is such an important issue, and how you can contribute to this campaign and help asylum seekers.

Firstly, I’d like to point out the distinction between an asylum seeker and a refugee for anyone who confuses them, as well as some background information. An asylum seeker is someone who says that they are a refugee, but their claim hasn’t been validated by the government yet, so they haven’t officially been acknowledged as a refugee and there’s no definite answer on whether they can remain in the UK. A refugee is basically anyone who has left their country and has been given the right to protection and to remain in another country.

In the UK, when an asylum seeker’s claim has been qualified by the UK Border Agency (an agency of the Home Office), they receive refugee status and are granted ‘leave to remain’ for 5 years, at the end of which they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. However, Asylum seekers aren’t allowed to work in the UK, whilst they’re waiting for a decision on their application.

The crux of the Lift the Ban campaign is that asylum seekers should not be banned from working, with many of them waiting for months (and even years) on end, for a decision on their status. Imagine fleeing from your country and seeking asylum in the UK, but then finding yourself living on just £5.39 per day, unable to support yourself and your family, whilst you’re anxiously waiting to know if you’ll be allowed to remain in the country…

Refugee Action is the organisation at the helm of this campaign, and they have put together a coalition report on this case, using statistics and facts to show ‘why people seeking asylum should have the right to work.’ You can read the whole report here and see for yourself, the differences it can make to the lives of people who want to start their life afresh and reap the rewards of their efforts and hard work.

In late June, it was announced that asylum seekers in the Republic of Ireland (separate from the UK) will be able to work, if they have waited for over 9 months on their first application for refugee status, apart from roles in the Irish police, Defence Forces or the civil service. If the Republic of Ireland can allow asylum seekers to work, then why can’t the UK? Especially when there’s a high public support for lifting the ban, with 71% supporting the lifting of the ban (source: Refugee Action). If you believe that asylum workers should be able to provide for themselves and live in dignity, then you can help by adding your voice to the petition here. 

What can you do to help?

You can sign the petition for lifting the ban, and you can also become more involved by joining the STAR (Student Action for Refugees) society, which enables university students to help ‘a refugee rebuild their life in the UK.’ Membership is just £3.50 and you can help out by joining Conversation Clubs and becoming part of their campaigns such as Equal Access to Higher Education.

Asylum seekers want to contribute to society, let’s help them to be able to.

Iqra Arshad

Image: Ben and Jerry’s