Why we must start the real debate on asylum

The issue of asylum-seekers and immigration is already proving to be one of
the most controversial in the run-up to the General Election. An attempt by the
Commission for Racial Equality to prevent politicians playing the race card by
asking them to sign a so-called Compact has badly backfired. It has only served
to raise the profile of the issue of asylum-seekers and the temperature of the
debate.

It is an issue that employers cannot ignore because refugees and asylum
seekers represent a potential untapped pool of skills much needed in UK
organisations. Moreover, employers play a crucial role in resolving this issue
because the ability of refugees to contribute to the economy is the central
issue in the asylum debate.

So far the debate on refugees has been conducted on a low level in the media
as a whole. The arguments for more stringent controls on refugees are that an
influx of immigrants will lead to racial tension and that if the UK is seen as
a soft touch, economic migrants will flock here in the hope of becoming benefit
scroungers. The central question that needs to be answered is whether refugees
are employable and if they can help to fill skills gaps in the UK now and in
the future.

The Government and main opposition party seem reluctant to raise the tone of
the debate for fear of being branded soft on immigration. Personnel Today
believes it is time the UK had a grown-up debate on asylum-seekers and
employment.

Personnel Today believes there are three things the Government must do to
help asylum-seekers find work.

– First, government departments must systematically record the skills,
qualifications and work experience of asylum-seekers and refugees.

– Second, the Government must commit itself to coordinating the employment
of refugees so that employers suffering skills shortages can take advantage of
the skills of this group.

– And third, any unnecessary red tape creating a barrier for refugees to
find work must be removed.

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