THE UK’s Nationality and Borders bill, also known as the anti-refugee bill, specifically intends to make life worse for people who seek asylum in the United Kingdom.

In doing so, the UK Government hopes to reduce the number of refugees that come to the UK. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has on many occasions insisted that the government has to “reduce the pull factors” that attract asylum seekers to come to the UK.

However, the bill’s passage through the House of Lords has been far from straightforward, and amendments by the Lords have presented new opportunities for campaigners and refugee communities. One such opportunity concerns the right for asylum seekers to work while awaiting their asylum decision after six months – which the Lords have said should be permitted.

Thousands of people currently living in the UK are banned from working. Former teachers, artists, accountants, and others are not able to share their skills and become active participants in local communities and society.

This is because people seeking asylum in the UK are unable to work unless their initial asylum decision is delayed by more than 12 months. If, however, their initial claim for asylum is rejected within the time period but the appeal process takes them over the 12 months, then they will still be banned from seeking employment. Those who are allowed to seek employment because their claims took longer than 12 months to process can only apply for specific jobs on the Shortage Occupation List.

Such jobs are highly specific – examples include chemical scientists in the nuclear industry, high integrity pipe welders and leading orchestral musicians – and the list also ends up acting as an insurmountable barrier for most asylum seekers to search for employment.

Lifting the ban on seeking employment is of huge importance to people seeking asylum in this country. For a start, it would give asylum seekers the opportunity to live on more than £5.66 per day – which keeps them in a lengthy state of poverty.

A report by Refugee Action found that banning people from working has significant impacts on people’s future employability, opportunities to learn and practise English, as well as their mental and physical wellbeing.

Lifting the ban would therefore also be important for improving refugees’ integration pathways and opportunities in Scotland. Indeed, allowing people in the asylum system to contribute to society through working and paying taxes would create the feeling that they are part of the society, rather than making them feel excluded and dependent.

In Glasgow, the Maryhill Integration Network (MIN) has been a major actor in the Lift the Ban movement – a 260-member coalition of charities, trade unions, business, faith groups and things tanks looking to overturn the ban.

Such networks have for years been warning of the mental and physical health impacts of being excluded from the right to work. They have also documented the effects of people being forced into poverty and made to be dependent on charities and third sector organisations rather than utilising their skills to provide for themselves and their families.

Moreover, as Wanjiru, one of the members of MIN Voices at Maryhill Integration Network says: “The right to work is important because it will allow us to exercise what we have learnt in school. It will also allow us to contribute to the economy of the UK positively through tax paying.”

During the House of Lords’ reading of the bill, which contained significant cross-party support against the Nationality and Borders Bill, statements from Maryhill Integration Network were included in the debate.

Baroness Ruth Lister, for example, stated that “as like the members of MIN said, not been able to work made them feel less than human.”

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Others also spoke in support of Lifting the Ban, including Bishop of Durham wrote an open letter to the Home Secretary saying it was “nonsensical” that there were people in the UK who wanted to work but were not permitted to do so.

They described allowing asylum seekers to work as common sense, fiscally responsible, and enabling those living here to pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Ultimately, in a huge win for the Lift the Ban campaign, the House of Lords voted to amend the Immigration Act 1971 to reduce the waiting time for asylum seekers to seek employment from 12 months to six.

WHILE these amendments by the House of Lords are crucial, the Nationality and Borders Bill has not yet reached its final stage. The amendments made by the House of Lords will now go back to the House of Commons for further debate.

If the members of the Commons reject the amendments made by the Lords then there is a possibility of “ping pong”– that the bill will go back and forth between the Lords and Commons until both reach an agreement.

Yet there is significant support for this amendment to succeed. Earlier this month, YouGov polling found that 81% of the UK public support the right to work for asylum seekers in the UK. In both the Commons and the Lords there is support for the amendment to succeed.

Indeed, the amendment was put forward in the Lords by Baroness Philippa Stroud, former head of the Centre for Social Justice think tank, and Conservative peer. It has even been reported that hardliner “One Nation Tories” in the House of Commons also support the amendment and might vote against the government on this issue.

As it stands, the bill has been amended in various ways by the Lords. However, there is still the possibility that the UK Government may double down and continue to push the anti-refugee agenda as far as can to reject the amendments.

It is crucial than at this stage for pro-refugee voices to be heard and for MPs to consider the possible effects of the bill. As another spokesperson for Maryhill Integration Network told us ahead of the House of Commons debates that started yesterday: “We hope that the bill will be met by compassion and in line with the Refugee Convention and hope MPs will oppose the bill.

“If this is not agreed, we hope the amendments, especially for Right to Work, and every other amendment in line with the Refugee Convention will be supported.”

Dr Dan Fisher, is a research Associate at the University of Glasgow Savan Qadir, is a research assistant at the Unesco Chair for Refugee Integration through Language and Arts Pinar Aksu is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, Human Rights Advocacy Co-ordinator at Maryhill Integration Network