ASYLUM SEEKERS RIGHT TO WORK – TUC launches national campaign

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TUC delegates at their Congress in Brighton yesterday voted unanimously for Motion 23, Asylum Seekers and Employment to launch a campaign to secure the right of asylum seekers ‘to seek employment while their application for refugee status is considered’.

Mover Helen Connor, of EIS, said: ‘Underpinning this week is our belief in everybody’s fundamental right to work.

‘This is denied to one of the most vulnerable groups in Britain, asylum seekers.’

She stressed: ‘They are not economic migrants, nor do they come here illegally. They are exercising their human right to asylum.

‘Asylum seekers want to work, pay taxes and contribute to the economy. They are being denied that chance, rely on handouts, live in poverty and in many cases have no support at all and are forced to return.

‘They come to this country and face persecution in another form.’

She concluded: ‘As British trade unionists we have a responsibility to support others. Turn your anger into action, into a campaign to allow asylum seekers to work in this country.’

Seconding the motion, Veronica Peppiatt, NUT, said: ‘Asylum seekers come here in search of protection and are willing to work.

‘In 2002 the government made it illegal for them to seek work – why?

‘We fought for asylum seekers’ children to attend local schools and won.’

She added: ‘Many asylum seekers are left in limbo as they await a decision. Innocent people are held in detention centres and treated as criminals. Why are they forced to live on handouts while awaiting a decision? This gives the message it’s a formality and they will be sent back.’

Gloria Mills, UNISON, speaking for the TUC General Council, said it gave its ‘support to the campaign for asylum seekers to have the right to work’ and urged everyone to sign the TUC pledge.

Evelyn Martin, GMB, speaking in support, said: ‘We have a history of fighting for humanity and equality. We are a nation of migrants. Asylum seekers should be allowed to work. The government is a hair’s breadth from outright racism.

‘It’s taken its policies from the Australian Tories – the “Pacific Solution” where they boarded ships to prevent refugees from reaching shore.

‘The UK government talks about the Australian points system. The Australian policy was tantamount to racism.’

Congress also voted unanimously in support of Emergency Motion One – Welfare Green Paper.

The motion ‘instructs the General Council to organise the widest possible opposition to the Green Paper with affiliated unions, campaign and user groups’.

It warns that the Green Paper means the privatisation of the Welfare State and brings in Workfare.