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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 11:25 GMT
'Refugees could plug jobs gap'
Man at job centre
Report says asylum seekers have skills needed in UK
A new report is calling on the government to make it easier for asylum seekers to work in the UK.

The report by the Industrial Society says the experience of many highly-qualified asylum seekers should be put to better use at a time of nationwide skills shortages.

Wasting the talents of Britain's refugee community is to the detriment of the economy and the taxpayer, the report argues.

One of the study's authors, Gill Sargeant, said the popular stereotype of asylum seekers as scroungers was misguided.

Gill Sergeant
Gill Sargeant: "Government should get its act together"

She said: "They're skilled, willing and keen to work. It is a matter of national disgrace that nearly four out of five asylum seekers and refugees are being excluded from British workplaces."

The government should begin a campaign to help change public perceptions of asylum seekers and educate employers about their skills, said Ms Sargeant.

Asylum seekers are currently allowed to work if a decision on their case is still pending after six months.

But the report said the varying status given to refugees and asylum seekers meant in practice many found barriers to gaining employment.

Keys factors were the amount of red tape employers had to negotiate to establish whether an asylum seeker had permission to work and fines of up to 2,000 imposed on firms taking on someone not entitled to work in the UK.

'Automatic right to work'

The report, compiled with the assistance of the Refugee Council and other refugee agencies, calls for all asylum seekers and their families to be automatically issued with a national insurance number after six months.

Operating theatre scene
Report says NHS could benefit from relaxing rules

Ms Sargeant said keeping asylum workers off the job market made no economic sense.

She said: "They want the work, employers want workers and the government says it wants employment opportunity for all.

"It's clearly high time that the government got its act together on migration policy and made sure that those allowed to live in this country are also allowed to work in this country."

The report also recommends reviewing regulations on recognition of professional qualifications.

It estimates there are up to up to 2,000 doctors among asylum seekers in the UK.

But their qualifications are not automatically recognised by the UK's medical authorities making it difficult for them to enter the job market.

Last year there were more than 80,000 asylum applications in the UK with most coming from Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

See also:

11 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Green card 'may solve skills shortage'
29 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Asylum shake-up at a glance
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