“I am a teacher, therefore I am a professional.”

It’s as common a question as remarking on the weather.   And ultimately our work or profession is part of the way we define ourselves and how others characterise us.  I am a teacher. I am therefore a professional. I am contributing positively to society.

The impact of being unable to work

What happens to your identity when your right to work is taken away?

Despair, desolation and even destitution.  These are some of the ways that asylum seekers are impacted while waiting for a decision on their request for asylum in the UK, sometimes for months and even years.

Perceptions of refugees coming to Britain for economic reasons, a free handout or taking British jobs or are simply untrue. Asylum seekers are looking for a place of safety.

Since 2002, almost all asylum seekers in the UK have been prevented by the Government from working.  As a result, they are forced to rely on minimal state support, as little as £5 a day, or left destitute.

Skilled, educated and eager to contribute to society

The belief that asylum seekers are unskilled or uneducated is also wrong.  Past studies have shown that the majority of those seeking asylum are highly qualified people who have been successful in their home countries.

There are currently over 1000 refugees working in the UK as doctors, dentists or nurses.  Many more medically qualified asylum seekers are not allowed to work, despite possessing much-needed skills. 

Further disproving these types of misconceptions is the Department of Work and Pensions’ findings that show almost a third of refugees have contributed to British society by doing voluntary work since their arrival.

Take action

Think it’s unfair that asylum seekers cannot work?  Let your concerns be known!  Write to your MP.  You can do this quickly and easily by joining the Still Human Still Here  campaign to urge the government to get behind more sensible rules for asylum seekers to allow them to work if they’ve been in the UK for more than six months.  Make your voice heard, join the campaign!

Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew