Nationality and Borders Bill: Bishop of Chelmsford supports right to work for asylum seekers

During a debate on the Nationality and Borders Bill in the first day of the report stage, on 28th February 2022, the Bishop of Chelmsford spoke in support of an amendment tabled by Baroness Stroud that would allow for the right to work for people seeking asylum who had been resident in the UK for six months:

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I give my strong support to Amendment 30 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud. She has eloquently made the case for this amendment, so I do not intend to take a great deal of the House’s time, but I wish to add a few brief remarks in support.

At Second Reading, I raised the question of how different our migration policy might be if we stopped looking at asylum seekers as either victims without agency or criminals seeking to exploit us and instead as future citizens and neighbours. In this light, the right to work for asylum seekers who have waited six months or more for a decision represents an excellent opportunity. It would be good for asylum seekers and for the soul of this nation. Such people are often left without agency or dignity. Their identity becomes limited to a sort of victim status. Being unable to work leaves them dependent on the state or at risk of falling in with illegal labour exportation.

Legal employment represents a chance for people to contribute to their own welfare and that of the common good. It is a way for them to bring their skill and efforts to their new communities, to make friends and to integrate. It provides an opportunity for others to meet and understand these newcomers, and to see them as willing contributors rather than chancers or criminals.

Work is not just a means to a wage or an economic benefit to a business and a community—although, as we have heard, it might be all these things—but innately social. It is activity done with and for others. It is a contribution to common life. That is something we should look to foster and encourage, as it is a means of building stronger ties of fellowship, stronger communities and stronger citizens.

This argument has been advanced before in this place and has been rejected. However, with new recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee and the sense of momentum we can hear in the House this evening, I hope we might be able to make some progress.


%d bloggers like this: