This week’s letters

At the launch of Personnel Today’s Refugees in Employment
campaign in June, we wrote to Immigration Minister Lord Rooker. Here is his
full response

Refugees must be able to reach their potential

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

In terms of the broader issues facing refugees seeking employment and
training, we have established a National Refugee In- tegration 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 UK 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 Sub-group has been tasked to address
the difficulties that refugees have in entering the job market. Membership of
the sub-group has been drawn from key stakeholders in the voluntary, public and
private sectors.

Issues that the sub-group are presently addressing include:

– Monitoring data on the profile of refugee job-seekers

– Reviewing the provision of English language training

– Recognition of overseas qualifications

– The promotion of refugee employment among 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

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 UK.

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, The Home Office

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