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Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
(PPC) 2024 General Election


Channel Migrants Quietly Granted Right to Work

The Home Office has recently and quietly granted asylum seekers who crossed the English Channel in small boats the right to work in certain sectors struggling with acute staff shortages. This controversial policy decision is likely to have profound implications as the UK grapples with record numbers of migrant channel crossings.

Scheme Allows Migrants to Work After a Year of Unresolved Cases

According to data obtained under Freedom of Information laws, nearly 16,000 migrants were allowed to work in the past year alone under the Home Office scheme. The programme stipulates that asylum seekers can apply for work permits if their applications remain unresolved for over 12 months.

Once approved, these migrants are then able to seek employment in designated shortage occupations like social care, construction, agriculture and food processing. The policy means new arrivals could be working in some of Britain’s most vital industries within a year of setting foot on UK shores.

The Pay Rate and Incentives Making Work an Attractive Option

Migrants who secure work permits under the scheme are paid 80% of the standard market rate within their occupation. They must forfeit the usual £49 weekly state allowance provided to asylum seekers if earning above that threshold. However, migrants can negotiate with the Home Office to remain in government-subsidised housing if they contribute towards accommodation costs.

With the promise of employment and the potential to keep some living expenses covered, taking up work is an attractive option for many migrants stuck in limbo as their cases go unresolved. Over 15,000 permits were issued in 2022 alone, representing nearly a third of the 51,000 asylum applicants who had already been waiting over a year for a decision.

Rising Backlogs and Channel Crossings Drive Increase in Work Permits

The massive year-on-year increase in work permits has occurred alongside two key trends – a 10-fold rise in the backlog of unresolved asylum cases and record numbers of migrant channel crossing attempts. With both these drivers expected to continue propelling permit application numbers even higher, critics argue the policy risks acting as an uncontrolled pull factor.

There are concerns that smugglers could use the prospect of securing legal work and subsidised housing within 12 months to entice more migrants to risk the perilous journey across the world’s busiest shipping lane.

As Ministers Eye Economic Benefits, Critics Warn of Threat to Deterrence Efforts

Some government ministers and advisers have suggested bringing policy even more in line with other European countries by allowing asylum seekers to work after just 6 months of waiting. They argue earlier work rights for new arrivals could boost economic growth and tax revenues.

However, critics like Nigel Farage warn that such measures fatally undermine the government’s attempts to deter illegal migration through tough rhetoric and controversial offshoring schemes. With the Rwanda deportation policy facing ongoing legal challenges, the ability to advertise jobs, housing and benefits could act as an incentive that encourages more migrants to make the dangerous Channel crossing.

Complex Balancing Act for Sunak Between Deterrence and Practical Policy

As he continues pushing legislation to get Rwanda deportation flights off the ground, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces criticism that concessions like work permits represent mixed messaging that signals Britain remains an attractive destination for illegal migration.

However, the government insists there is no evidence formally linking the scheme to increased small boat crossings. Officials also highlight steps taken to cut unresolved caseloads and tighten the policy’s scope to shortage occupations.

Navigating these issues requires complex trade-offs between politically tough deterrence posturing and more practical policies tackling staff shortages that ultimately allow new arrivals to integrate. For Sunak, confronting the unrelenting tide of Channel migrants will demand walking this fine line as pressure mounts to show concrete results.

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