Asylum Seekers and Work Permits – The New Second Chance

New Court ruling grants legacy asylum claimants a further opportunity to seek work

Thousands of asylum seekers will now be entitled to work after a Supreme Court ruling that an EU Directive applies to applicants who make fresh claims for asylum.

About 45,000 people will be entitled to look for work as a result of the decision, ZO (Somalia) & Ors, R (on the application of) v Home Secretary [2010] UKSC 36.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) usually allows asylum seekers permission to work in the UK if their application remains undecided for 12 months or more, as is required by European Law. However; the UKBA has tried to deny that right to those asylum seekers awaiting a “legacy” claim—a backlog of about 500,000 cases, some of which dated back more than 10 years, where the applicant has made a second or fresh application for asylum after refusal of their original asylum application.

In the cited case, ZO’s second application, which was based on fresh evidence, was placed in the “legacy” category and she was not permitted to work by the UKBA. However; ZO’s lawyers, successfully argued the Reception Directive does apply to fresh asylum claims. Dismissing the appeal by the Home Office, Lord Kerr stated “It would be, in my view, anomalous and untoward that an applicant who makes a subsequent application after his first application has been finally disposed of, should be denied access to standards that are no more than the minimum to permit him to live with some measure of dignity.

However; in an apparent rebuke to the courts and legal system, the immigration minister has announced plans to bar individuals such as ZO from applying for some 28.5 million jobs in industries where there are no official staff shortages. Such a step would likely be open to further legal challenge.

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