✏️ Rachael Thacker
Typically farms in the UK have been able to function due to the dedication of seasonal workers. Roughly there are 80,000 seasonal workers each year, with only 1% of these being British. As a result of this, the British agricultural sector is hugely dependent on foreign workers. The global pandemic, however, has prevented these key workers from travelling to the UK.
You might have seen the media promoting the Feed The Nation scheme trying to recruit labour. Despite the urgency of the matter, these positions are currently not available to Asylum Seekers.
To clarify, an Asylum Seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. Therefore, apart from in very few circumstances, they do not have the right to work in the UK.
The restrictions on Asylum Seekers seeking work should be lifted; the UK is set to face a farming crisis and could really utilise the skills that this demographic has to offer.
Benefits to Asylum Seekers
Many Asylum Seekers in the UK live in extreme poverty. Even those fortunate enough to receive government support are only given a mere allowance of £37.75 per week and accommodation which are of usually inhumane standards.
Opening seasonal workers’ positions to these people would enable them to earn a wage and live in accommodation which is provided by the farms.
Moreover, with some people travelling from countries where agriculture is the biggest job sector, they already have the necessary skills and experience (even though to be a seasonal worker you don’t need prior experience).
Plus, employment can be a huge part in someone’s identity and help them build confidence in a new community.
The UK asylum system actually plays into the hands of modern slavery. If anything it might promote it. As stated before, government support to Asylum Seekers is pitiful. How do they expect people to afford their basic needs?
6 months is how long the government state an asylum decision should take. However, over 58% of applicants have waited far longer than this.
With total uncertainty about their future, all they know is that right now they need money in order to survive. Yet, the only people who can employ them are those who do so illegally. As you can imagine, this work is exploitative and has no regard for workers rights.
Providing Asylum Seekers with the ability to work legitimately is the most effective way to combat modern day slavery in the UK.
Asylum Seekers post decision
In 2019, 52% of people’s initial asylum claims were successful, and then a further 23,514 seeing their appeals overturned. This indicates that many of these people will become permanent members of our communities.
Therefore, allowing them to work from their arrival is really beneficial to our economy. Giving them greater employment prospects, teaching them new skills and integrating them into a strange new world.
Preparing for post Brexit Britain
The majority of our foreign seasonal workers come from countries within the EU. It has been relatively simple for them as they don’t need a VISA to work in the UK. However, come next summer I still predict that we will face a shortage of seasonal workers as Britain won’t be as desirable as it loses its accessibility, no longer being a member of the EU.
Because of this, not only will allowing asylum seekers to work help the current demand but could help with future deficits. But most importantly it would help people that are desperately in need.
Ultimately, there are many strong arguments giving asylum seekers the opportunity to work. Nonetheless, even if every asylum seeker were mentally and physically well enough to work, this still wouldn’t meet the quota of people required. If anyone unfortunately finds themselves unemployed during these hard times, maybe this is something you would like to consider.
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