Seeking asylum and wanting to work – Salvation Army continues to support Lift the Ban

published on 22 Nov 2018

Last month, The Salvation Army joined a growing coalition of organisations calling on the Government to allow asylum seekers to work. The ‘Lift the Ban’ coalition recognises that right now, right here in the UK, people seeking refugee status are restricted from working whilst they wait months, and often years, for a decision on their asylum claim. 

The Salvation Army believes that people who have risked everything to find safety should have the best chance of contributing to society and integrating into communities, as well as having the opportunity to better support their families financially. This means giving people seeking asylum the right to work so that they can use their skills and live in dignity. 

Here, Naomi Clifton, a Salvation Army church leader tells Phoebe’s* story:

“It’s an ordinary Tuesday morning at The Salvation Army and the hall is busy with families attending the coffee morning, toddler group, baby bank and practical support drop in. 

“One of the team welcoming people into the hall is Phoebe*.  Phoebe is an adherent member of The Salvation Army and has worshipped at the corps (church) for around three years.  She has a passionate Christian faith and sings in the worship group. As well as volunteering on Tuesday mornings, Phoebe is part of the team who make Messy Church happen and also volunteers in our charity shop. Her son enjoys Sunday school activities with his friends. 

“Today Phoebe will spend the morning listening to the stories of people coming into the hall for help. She will write a food voucher for the man who used to be an architect in his home country but cannot work while his claim for asylum is considered by the Home Office. She will make a cup of coffee for the man who has been cheated by rogue construction employers who promised to pay him cash in hand, taking advantage of his desperation – they know he can’t work legally while claiming asylum. She will listen to the worries of the mother who has three children but is living on handouts because her husband can’t work as a lecturer until their asylum claim is settled. 

“Phoebe knows their struggle all too well; because their story is her story too. 

“It’s almost four years since Phoebe and her son were forced to flee their home country and travel to the UK to seek asylum.  And for the last four years Phoebe has been in limbo while her application for asylum is considered. She and her son eat, play, study and sleep in a small bedroom provided by the National Asylum Service (NAS). They have to negotiate with other families in the house for access to the shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. Phoebe receives a total of £72 a week to provide for all their other needs: food, clothing, medicine, travel, toiletries, study materials and phone bills. There is little left over to save for unexpected costs. She appreciates the support the corps has given her, such as helping with travel costs to meetings with her solicitor and at the Home Office, providing food parcels, giving her second-hand clothing and toys for her little boy. 

“Being able to work while they wait for a decision from the Home Office would make so much difference to Phoebe and her son. Before she had to flee her home country, she worked in a bank and a travel agency. Phoebe has qualifications in health and social care and would love to work as a midwife one day. But she would do any work that meant that she could earn a living for herself while her claim for asylum is considered.   

“When I told Phoebe that The Salvation Army had joined the coalition campaigning to ‘Lift the Ban’ on asylum seekers working, she began to cry. It meant so much to her that her church family would seek justice for her and her son.”

The Salvation Army is encouraging people to add their voice to the growing chorus calling to ‘Lift the Ban’. More information about the campaign is available at ‘Activism’ packs are available for download, which give suggestions of how to raise awareness about this issue in the community and with MPs. 

*name has been changed