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Universities of Sanctuary support lifting the ban on right to work for people seeking asylum

Update on the Anti-Refugee Bill

On Tuesday 22nd March, the Nationality and Borders Bill returned to the Commons from the Lords. Many of the most harmful elements of the Bill were reinstated, including Clause 11 which allows for differentiated treatment of refugees.

Despite the disappointing result, Refugee Action compiled a thread of reasons for hope following the votes, and a highlight from the debate was Tahir Ali MP reading out messages of support for refugees sent to him by pupils at St Dunstan’s Primary, a school of sanctuary in Birmingham.

The Bill has now returned to the Lords for consideration of Commons amendments. 

Lift The Ban

The House of Commons debated and voted on the Lords’ amendment to give people seeking asylum the right to work after waiting six months for a decision on their claim.

Opposition parties, including Labour, voted overwhelmingly for the amendment. This highlights video from the debate makes clear how much support there is for reform, and the Lift the Ban coalition will be watching for quick progress on this issue.


Universities of Sanctuary support Lift the Ban campaign

University of Sanctuary support Lift the Ban coalition, along with over 260 organisations across the UK calling on the UK Government to give people seeking asylum the right to work.

Asylum seekers are currently banned from work and forced to subsist on £5.84 a day. Only those who have waited over 12 months can apply for permission to work, and then have to choose an occupation on the narrowly defined Shortage Occupation List, therefore most are left struggling to cover the costs of supporting themselves and their families.

The right to work for people seeking asylum is now part of the Nationality and Borders Bill after being added to the legislation in the House of Lords.

The passage of the Nationality and Borders Bill presents an opportunity to change this. During its passage in the Lords, the Bill was amended by cross-party peers to include permission to work for people who have waited over six months for a decision on their asylum application, and for their adult dependents.

This would have huge social and economic benefits. Access to employment ensures people better integrate into their local communities, backed up by research, data, and the experiences of people we work with. The longer the ban from working, the worse the impact on long term employment prospects and people’s mental health.

The campaign calls for changes to allow people to rebuild their lives in dignity, especially after risking everything to find safety.

Like Equal Access to Higher Education, together, we believe we can #LiftTheBan and ensure that people seeking safety have a fair access to the right to work.


Lift the Ban released new financial analysis projecting that the Government will have lost £880 million as a result of the ban over the past decade by the end of 2022. In addition, they undertook polling with You Gov this week and received an incredible result: 81% of the population believe the ban should be lifted and 73% believe right to work would be beneficial to integration.

Join the campaign

The University of Newcastle was the first University of Sanctuary to formally join the coalition.  Read about their support for the campaign here.

Now the Bill is on its way back to the House of Lords, and subsequently the Commons. Your MP has the power to change this. It’s our best chance ever to Lift the Ban. Email your MP to secure their support.

We are encouraging Universities of Sanctuary members, and all universities, to:

  • Email your MP and share the link with your networks.
  • Use this template letter here to send communication more directly and in more detail.
  • Share campaign video to raise awareness on social media and re-share Refugee Action’s posts about the campaign.

Robust data and information is available in the coalition report  and a helpful activism pack is packed full of tips and information on how to campaign in your local area.