Refugee measures clear the way for employment

The Government is poised to adopt the aims of Personnel
Today’s Refugees in Employment campaign later this month. Lord Rooker spoke
exclusively to Ben Willmott

The Government is to announce a package of measures aimed at making it
easier for employers to recruit refugees and help them make the most of their

Immigration and Citizenship Minister Lord Rooker, speaking exclusively to
Personnel Today, said that a White Paper on citizenship, asylum and immigration
to be published at the end of this month will highlight proposals for a skills
database to ensure highly qualified refugees do not slip through the employment

The White Paper will also outline plans to reduce bureaucracy and remove
uncertainty over the recruitment of refugees.

Personnel Today has been campaigning for the Government to create a skills
database and reduce red tape to help employers recruit qualified refugees.

Fast-track to jobs

Rooker said the skills database will play a key role in identifying highly
qualified people seeking asylum in the UK so that, if they are granted refugee
status, they can be fast-tracked to jobs where there are shortages of their
skills when they are eligible for work.

He explained that details of asylum-seekers’ skills and qualifications will
be taken when they are processed through induction centres, which are to be
developed over the next year.

The White Paper will also outline a pilot scheme to create four
accommodation centres for asylum-seekers, as an alternative to the current
dispersal system.

"At the moment, when someone applies for asylum we do not ask them what
their occupation is or what qualifications they have, we only ask what is
relevant to their claim," Rooker said.

"Under a new proposal to be announced in the white paper, we will
develop ideas for induction centres and accommodation centres.

"Everybody will go through the induction centres for at least a day
and, because of extra resources, we will be in a position to introduce a more
managed system of taking information, including qualifications and skills.

"We would know what we have coming through the system, so we would not
get brain surgeons driving buses," Rooker added.

He said the Government is also planning to give asylum-seekers who achieve
refugee status help in having their qualifications and work experience
recognised in this country.

He explained, "Some refugees come armed to the gunnels with paperwork,
but some come with nothing. It means there is a need to check and get
accreditation for their qualifications to ensure they can do what they say they
can do."

The minister added that the White Paper will include measures to cut red
tape and remove the uncertainty employers face over recruiting refugees.

Workable proposals

Rooker would not confirm whether the White Paper will include a standard
permission to work document, but he said the Home Office, the DTI and experts
in small business had worked together to ensure the proposals would be

"We want to remove the doubt. It is quite ridiculous that there are
people who can work legally and yet there are still employers who do not know
whether they can take someone on or not," he said.

Rooker emphasised that the Government intends to improve the provision of
English language teaching for asylum-seekers to make them more employable.

The minister said the document outlines a new approach based on managed
migration, which he hopes will reduce the number of illegal immigrants.

He said, "The white paper will raise many issues in terms of improving
integration and welcoming people, so there is no ‘Fortress Britain’, making it
easier to come to work here by applying overseas. We are trying to chop off the
need to come here illegally and claim asylum because all they want to do is to
work here."

Permit scheme

The White Paper will look at a range of issues including seasonal workers,
working holiday makers, revamping the work permit scheme and low skilled

Rooker said the Government’s Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, announced
last month, which would enable overseas workers with valuable skills to apply
to work in the UK, was one of the White Paper’s proposals.

He added, "There will be lots of routes into the UK for work which are
much more upfront and known about than they are at the present time – new
gateways that will hopefully cut down the number of people who feel they have
to pay a facilitator to get in on the back of a lorry."

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