Asylum seekers’ right to work

Changes could add £30 million to Scotland’s economy annually.

Allowing asylum seekers the right to work could help them settle into communities better while boosting Scotland’s economy and workforce.

Research by the Scottish Government’s independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population sets out how enabling asylum seekers to gain employment could improve health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of exploitation.

Changes could also benefit the Scottish economy, help fill gaps in the workforce and see increased council tax paid directly to local authorities which host asylum seekers.

The report will underpin the development of proposals for a Scottish Asylum Right to Work pilot, to be submitted for consideration to the Home Office in 2024.

Migration Minister Emma Roddick said:

“Scotland provides a welcoming home to many people seeking asylum, with policies underpinned by dignity, respect and compassion.  

“This independent report shows how enabling asylum seekers to find work could reduce anxiety and improve the wellbeing of vulnerable people, while supporting Scotland’s economy by helping fill skills shortages and addressing population challenges.

“As the UK Government continues to pursue repugnant policies on asylum and immigration, we are developing mitigations as far as possible within our devolved powers and budget, including through our New Scots refugee integration strategy.

“The Scottish Government will now use this report to design a proposal to work within the current devolution settlement, but only independence would give us power to implement a full Scottish asylum system rooted in respect for human rights.”

Chair of the Scottish Government’s independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population Rebecca Kay said:

"Our report shows strong international evidence that strict restrictions on the right to work have negative consequences for asylum seekers’ material and emotional well-being, and for long-term integration outcomes. 

"We also find substantial evidence of the considerable barriers which people seeking asylum are likely to face on entering the labour force. These will require careful consideration by Scottish Government, and deliberate remedy, when designing a pilot proposal.

"Wider measures to provide adequate reception, settlement and integration services will be required in order to realise the full benefits of a right to work policy for asylum seekers."


Extending the Right to Work to Asylum Seekers in Scotland: evaluation, analysis, and policy options

Asylum is reserved to the UK Parliament. UK Government policy currently means that asylum seekers in all parts of the UK have to wait 12 months before being able to apply for permission to work from the Home Office and if granted permission they are restricted to roles on the Shortage Occupation List.

While UK Government policy places strict limitations on when asylum seekers can work and the types of jobs they can do, a less restrictive approach could bring Scotland’s closer to countries including Australia, Canada, Germany and Sweden.

The Scottish Government’s Building a New Scotland paper on migration to Scotland after independence sets out how an independent Scotland could create a migration system with dignity, fairness and respect at its core.


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