It has been a busy few weeks for the Let Them Work campaign – and this week has been no exception, with Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesman Chris Huhne MP adding his personal and party support for the campaign.
Over 50 party activists attended a fringe meeting hosted by the Refugee Council at the Lib Dem Conference in Bournemouth called ‘Let Them Work: Why won’t the government allow asylum seekers to work?’.
Refugee Council Chief Executive, Donna Covey, set out the case for allowing asylum seekers to work, before passing over to Zimbabwean asylum seeker Chipo Chaya, who shared her testimony.
Chipo, a trained accountant, told the audience what the ban on work had meant for her since she fled Zimbabwe because of her political activities in 2002.
I came here as Chipo Chaya, a proud mother and political activist with a good job. Now I have lost my identity, but have been given some new labels to wear. I am an ethnic minority, an ex-detainee, a destitute, a refused asylum seeker. In reality, I have been reduced to a beggar in the first world; I live on hand-outs from well-wishers.
Allowing people like me to work is the best path to dignity. All these years I have been wasting time when I could have been contributing to the society, and I could have been paying tax as well.”
The audience was clearly moved by Chipo’s story, and Lib Dem peer, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who chaired the meeting responded: “We are with you all the way, Chipo. We will do whatever we can in Parliament to help people like you.”
Chris Huhne MP expressed regret at the way attitudes towards asylum seekers had hardened in recent years and called for Britain to show a ‘liberal generosity of spirit’ to those seeking safety from persecution. He continued:
“It is almost incomprehensible to me how the government continues this policy of preventing asylum seekers from working. The more I think about it, the more outrageous it is. Allowing asylum seekers to work is the minimum a civilised society ought to do. I very much back the Let Them Work campaign.”
This capped a successful Lib Dem Conference for the Refugee Council – with a motion passed by the Conference, a high profile at the Human Rights Reception, and strong backing for our main campaign from the leadership.
On Sunday we head to Manchester for the Labour Conference. It is going to be an interesting week…