Allowing asylum seekers to work while they await their application decision will make the system “more fair” for struggling local authorities, an academic said today.
Currently asylum seekers are dispersed across voluntary local authorities, however several regional leaders have criticised the system for placing too much strain on the country’s poorest communities.
Carlos Vargas-Silva, research director at the University of Oxford’s Centre on Migration, Policy, and Society said asylum seekers could spend more than six months waiting for a decision, during which they must be supported by the government.
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Mr Vargas-Silva told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham: “During that time they cannot work or enter the labour market so they depend on the government for housing and support.
“You have to provide them with schooling, health services, and other services that have to come out of the budget of local authorities, so it can create a lot of pressures at the local level.”
Mr Vargas-Silva said allowing asylum seekers to work would mean they could “pay for themselves”, and would also make the system “more fair” for communities with lower-cost housing.
The current dispersal system assigns asylum seekers to a given local authority while they await their application decision, but the drive to cut costs means the poorest areas can feel the heaviest burden.
He added “The idea is that they are not going to be concentrated, but in practice that is somewhat difficult because of the way local authorities work and the cheaper housing actually works, so while you don’t want them to be concentrated in one area, sometimes you have that because of the housing market.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham became the latest leader to complain of the dispersal system today, writing in a letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid that the dispersal programme was a “catastrophic failure” and threatening to withdraw Greater Manchester’s support for the scheme.
The latest figures show there has been a 102% increase since 2003 in asylum seekers supported by Greater Manchester.
Mr Vargas-Silva said it was important to bear in mind that the UK only takes a small share of people applying for asylum in Europe.
On average the UK receives about 20,000 to 30,000 applications per year, of which between 5,000 - 10,000 are accepted, compared to the one million average applications per year Germany receives.
Words: Cormac Connelly-Smith