Independent UK commission outlines alternative asylum system

The London School of Economics suggests that migrants could bring in a net economic gain of £1.2bn over five years

Migrants, picked up while trying to cross the English Channel, are helped ashore at Dungeness, south-east England, in December 2022. AFP
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Migrants would be eligible to work in the UK after six months of waiting for an asylum decision and given free English language education on day one after arrival, in an alternative proposal to Britain’s “broken” system.

Recommendations by the independent Commission on the Integration of Refugees (CIR) in its new report include the reinstatement of a refugees minister in government.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev Justin Welby, has been a leading critic in the upper chamber of government legislation aimed at deporting some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Archbishop Welby is among religious figures supporting the recommendations. They include Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and rabbis Josh Levy and Charley Baginsky.

“In a world of rising conflict and instability, we agree that immigration must be managed and controlled, small boats must be stopped, and traffickers must be caught," the Archbishop said.

“Receiving communities especially must be supported and not feel used. That makes it easier for our natural generosity to be expressed, and for our unity to grow and not be threatened.

“It’s widely acknowledged that our asylum system is broken. It needs rebuilding with compassion, dignity and fairness at the centre.

“This requires thoughtful, well-informed consideration, which promotes collaboration and common ground, not division.”

In making its case for greater opportunities for refugees, the CIR report highlights analysis by the London School of Economics that suggests migrants could bring in a net economic gain of £1.2 billion [$1.5 billion] over five years.

It says the two recommendations that would deliver this benefit are English language classes provided from arrival in the UK and employment support given at six months, alongside the government meeting its target to process asylum applications in the same time.

A survey of refugees and asylum seekers for the commission by Neighbourly Lab, a non-profit research group, suggests there is “untapped potential” in Britain, the CIR said.

One in three respondents had a bachelor’s degree or equivalent but the same number said they were unable to use the skills they learnt as part of their qualification, according to the findings.

The same number said language was the most significant barrier to work yet more than one in five have been unable to access English classes due to waiting lists, the commission said.

The report says the government should “make people in the asylum system eligible for general employment after six months of waiting for their asylum decision” and this should “not be limited to the jobs on the shortage occupation list”.

It also calls for people in the asylum system to be made eligible for shortage occupation list jobs from day one and for consideration of a "government-backed finance scheme” to help refugees set up businesses.

All asylum-seeking children should be able to access mainstream education immediately, no matter when they arrive, the report says.

“The whole system needs strong governance and oversight, including the reinstatement of a UK refugee minister and involving people with experience as refugees,” it adds.

“Our work over the last couple of years, listening to people from across the country, commissioning research and exploring these issues has provided a rich insight into what is clearly a broken system," said Ed Kessler, chairman of the commission.

“It’s expensive, inefficient and damaging for refugees and Britain.

“But amongst the debris were findings that gave us real hope and inspiration for a very different system; one that supports refugees, communities and wider society to thrive.

“One that our political leaders can realistically embrace.”

What's it like for a migrant to cross the channel by boat? - video

What's it like for a migrant to cross the channel by boat?

What's it like for a migrant to cross the channel by boat?

“The UK has a proud history of providing protection for those who genuinely need it," a Home Office representative said.

"Since 2015, we have offered a safe and legal route to over 550,000 men, women and children seeking safety, as well as family members of refugees.

“We are committed to ensuring that refugees can take positive steps towards integration as they rebuild their lives in the UK, including immediate access to the labour market and to mainstream services that support their integration, like benefits and health care.

“The UK’s right-to-work policies for asylum seekers must strike the right balance between protecting taxpayer money and ensuring people are not incentivised to come to the UK illegally.”

Updated: March 20, 2024, 12:13 AM