'Lift the ban' - Hartlepool backs calls to allow asylum seekers improve rights to work and learn English
Councillors have backed a motion calling for the council to support improved rights for asylum seekers.
It comes after a motion, signed by Labour councillors, went before a full meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council.
It called on the council to join the ‘Lift the Ban Coalition’ which is campaigning to restore the right to work for everyone waiting for more than six months for a decision on their asylum claim.
Coun Amy Prince said she was approached by a charity called Asylum Matters who are speaking to councils around the country and asking them to stand in solidarity with them.
Coun Prince said: “The reason for me putting this motion forward is currently asylum seekers and refugees are essentially banned from working in the UK until they’ve been here a year and they can’t access English lessons for six months.
“It basically means they can’t integrate into our communities and it causes a lot of problems that we have around racism and issues like that.
“We would be putting our name collectively as a council towards this.
“It’s just to say we stand in solidarity and would like the Government to look at the policies so English lessons can be accessed straight away and work could be accessed after six months instead of a year.”
She added it had already been passed in other North East areas such as Newcastle, Gateshead, Redcar and Cleveland and Middlesbrough.
Coun Carl Richardson also spoke in favour of the motion, adding it would provide a boost to the economy.
He said: “You have people come over here with skills which we can utilise to help our economy and at the same time when they do get jobs they’ll be paying taxes.
“I think it’s very important, and especially people in Hartlepool should be supporting this motion.”
The motion also called on the Government to give people seeking asylum the right to work unconstrained by the shortage occupation list after they have waited six months for a decision on their initial asylum claim.
The motion was passed, with 25 councillors voting in favour, one against and two abstentions.