'Desperate' asylum seekers work illegally while appealing

By Jordan Davies
BBC News

Image source, Abdalaziz Osman
Image caption,
Mustafa Dawood was found under a broken section of plastic roofing

Asylum seekers are working illegally out of desperation as they wait months to find out if they can stay in the UK, it has been claimed.

One man said worrying if he would be deported left him thinking "what is the point in life".

"You can't sleep, you can't eat," said the man, who joined calls for asylum seekers to be able to work while their appeals are heard.

It comes after one worker fell to his death during a raid in Newport.

But the Home Office said the rules, which mean asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK, were to protect the resident labour market and asylum seekers could get support until their appeal was determined.

Mustafa Dawood, 23, had been working at a car wash in the Newport while his appeal was being considered but fell from a roof while fleeing from immigration officers in June.

BBC Wales spoke to one man in Newport, who does not wish to be named, who said he thought he had been "forgotten" by the Home Office as his last contact was in late 2016.

"Mustafa, like me had been waiting, he got work, he needed money to buy some stuff.

"If I was able to work it would be better, it would be better than being stuck at home in the same routine, it would take my mind off the decision.

"You can't sleep, you can't eat, it's hard. Sometimes I think about crazy stuff. I think why do I stay in this life. I think, what is the point in life?

"Other people are worse than me, my friends, when we walk together they keep talking about killing themselves."


He added: "I hope the Home Office will change these kind of rules and allow people to work and to answer people more quickly, not take one or two years.

"It's not fair. We are suffering."

According to the Wales Strategic Migration Partnership there were 2,910 asylum seekers in Wales receiving some form of support in the first quarter of 2018.

Image caption,
The asylum seeker said he and others were having to wait years to find out if they would be deported

Managers at the Sanctuary Project, which supports asylum seekers, believe Mr Dawood would still be alive if he had been able to work legally.

Project manager Sarah Croft said: "Mustafa shouldn't have been working, we know that. But honestly this system drives people to make bad choices.

"Had Mustafa been told you can go to work legally, then he wouldn't have been fearful of those authorities when they arrived.

"I would like to see asylum seekers be given the right to work if the Home Office can't meet their guidelines.

"Maybe limited hours, but it would improve their mental health. Many of the people who use our service are accessing primary mental health services and, maybe this could be alleviated were they given the right to work."

Home Office guidelines state an asylum decision on straightforward cases "will usually be decided within six months".

However support workers at The Sanctuary said "few" people are given a decision within this period, with some having to wait years.

The Irish government announced in June that asylum seekers waiting longer than nine months for a decision will be allowed to work, with few restrictions on the type of employment.

The Sanctuary said it has the support of other organisations across the UK and will be writing to Home Secretary Sajid Javid about following suit.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK unless their claim has been outstanding for at least 12 months through no fault of their own.

"This policy is designed to protect the resident labour market to prioritise access employment for British citizens and those lawfully resident here, including those granted refugees status.

"Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute can obtain support under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 from the time they arrive in the UK, until their claim is fully determined and they have exhausted their appeal rights."