'Shortage occupations’ change is not such good news for asylum seekers

THE shortage of care workers had led the government to expand the list of “shortage occupations” and allow asylum seekers who have been waiting more than 12 months for a home office decision to apply to work in this sector. This seems like good news but it isn’t.

The CNJ has reported before on the fact that many asylum seekers, including women in our group, the All African Women’s Group, have worked as nurses and carers, either in our home countries, or here in the United Kingdom, before the hostile immigration environment ousted us from our jobs.

Most of us are now living on destitution-level national Asylum Support. Many of us are mums and are desperate to be able to support our children, both those living with us here and those we were forced to leave when we escaped to the UK.

We would relish the opportunity to get a wage but taking a job would sabotage our chances of pursuing our asylum claim and we are likely to be even poorer than we are now.

Asylum seekers who take waged work won’t be entitled to the top-ups that people on low wages need to survive, like child benefit, housing benefit, free school meals, reductions on the cost of school trips and nursery places when our children turn two.

Crucially we’d lose legal aid which means no access to reliable lawyers, no help to speak about the rape and other violence we suffered, no “expert” evidence to corroborate our claim. Without this we stand little chance of winning asylum against the home office’s “culture of disbelief”.

So instead of being able to use our skills we are stigmatised and abused. The Nationality and Borders Bill currently going through parliament will make this worse, depriving people of the right to claim asylum and to be reunited with precious children.

Opposition to this bill is growing. We dearly hope it is defeated because we feel like our lives and our happiness depend on it.

All African Women’s Group
Crossroads Women’s Centre, NW5