Letter from Jeff Rooker to Personnel Today

Home
Office minister Jeff Rooker has responded to Personnel Today’s Refugees in
Employment campaign with a pledge to look again at the official letters to
refugees which prove their right to work. Here we reproduce his letter in full.

Thank
you for your letter of 6 July asking me to respond to a campaign launched in
Personnel Today in July which aims to assist refugees and asylum seekers gain
employment.

I
believe that it is important to remember that there are fundamental differences
in the terms “refugee” and “asylum seeker”. 
Refugee applies to those who have received a positive decision on their
application for asylum.  The term also
includes those whose application for asylum has been refused but who have been
granted leave to remain on humanitarian grounds.  Refugees are able to work. 
They are issued with a letter confirming the grant of this status and
the letter makes it clear that they are able to work.

We
have been working closely with a number of refugee groups and other voluntary
organisations, particularly the Employability Forum, to enhance the way in
which these letters express that refugees have permission to work.  We believe that this will help to ensure
that potential employers are clear that people from this group have no barriers
preventing them from taking up employment.

In
terms of the broader issues facing refugees seeking employment and training, we
have established a National Refugee Integration Forum to oversee the
implementation of a national integration strategy.  This Forum brings together key policy makers from central
Government, local authorities, the voluntary sector and refugee groups
themselves.  We believe that it is essential
that refugees are given the chance to achieve their full potential in the
United Kingdom and we consider that the attainment of employment is a key
factor in this process.  A sub group of
the Forum has therefore been set up to look exclusively at matters surrounding
employment, training and adult education.

The
Employment, Training and Adult Education Subgroup has been tasked to address
the difficulties that refugees have in entering the job market.  Membership of the subgroup has been drawn
from key stakeholders in the voluntary, public and private sectors.  Issues that the subgroup are presently
addressing include:


monitoring data on the profile of refugee jobseekers;


reviewing the provision of English language training;


recognition of overseas qualifications;


the promotion of refugee employment amongst employers;


consultation with the Department for Work and Pensions over the development of
a policy on refugee employment.

The
term “asylum seeker” refers to those who are still awaiting a decision on their
claim for asylum.  Generally speaking
those in this group are allowed to work only if their conditions of stay do not
preclude this.  There is a concession which
allows adult asylum seekers to apply for permission to work if their application
remains outstanding for longer than six months without a decision being made on
it.  Permission to work is granted on
the standard acknowledgement letter which is issued to all asylum seekers.

Section
8 of the Immigration and Asylum Act makes it an offence for an employer to
employ a foreign national who does not have permission to work here.  Guidance is available to employers who wish
to satisfy themselves that the person they are considering employing can work
here.

We
are keen to ensure that employers do not inadvertently discriminate against
refugees and those asylum seekers who are allowed to work.  We believe that employers should ask the
same questions of all potential employees in order to establish their
eligibility to take employment.

We
have no plans to establish a database of skills for asylum seekers.  In many cases the asylum application will be
finally determined as unsuccessful.  In
these cases the person concerned is expected to leave the United Kingdom.  We believe it is far more important to use
our available resources to assist the integration for those granted refugee
status.

As
a team of new Home Office Ministers we have been actively exploring a range of
options for change and hope to be able to make some announcements during the Autumn.

Jeff
Rooker
Minister of State

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