The Liberal Democrats are calling for asylum seekers to be given the right to work, as new figures show a dramatic rise in the number who are still waiting for a decision on their claim months after applying.
The statistics, published by the Home Office, show that at the end of 2019 29,218 people were waiting for an initial decision more than six months after lodging their asylum application. That represents a 76.5% increase since December 2018, and a six-fold increase since 2015.
Asylum seekers are barred from working until they’ve been waiting for 12 months, and even then they are limited to the narrow list of jobs on the Government’s Shortage Occupation List. They are forced to rely on asylum support from the Government, worth just £37.75 per person per week.
Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said: “When people come to the UK having fled war or persecution, we should welcome them with compassion and enable them to contribute to our society.
“Instead, under this Tory Government, the Home Office leaves them waiting months for a decision, unable to work and reliant on a handout of less than £40 a week.
“It is heartless and cruel, and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“It’s long past time for the Government to end this scandal by giving asylum seekers the right to work, as well as speeding up asylum decisions.
“Liberal Democrats will continue our fight to lift the ban on asylum seekers working. This would give them a sense of dignity and more money, as well as enabling them to contribute to the Exchequer and saving taxpayers money.”