'Lift the Ban' campaigners give Northern Ireland a taste of what asylum seekers could offer

A campaign is giving Northern Ireland a taste of what asylum seekers could offer if they were allowed to work.

Those who claim asylum in the UK are not normally allowed to work whilst their claim is being considered.

Originally from Sudan, Mohammed is an asylum seeker who now lives in a hotel in Belfast while he awaits the outcome of his application.

"Now, the asylum seeker receives just £8 a week - that is not enough," he said.

"An asylum seeker living in shared accommodation receives £37 a week - that is not enough and that is not fair."

The 'Lift the Ban' campaign, which has been organised by a group of human rights activists known as 'Participation and the Practice of Rights' (PPR), aims to change that.

Tawassul Nasraldeen said: "Many asylum seekers who are not allowed to work are skilled and qualified and willing to work. It makes no sense.

"People need the jobs and the jobs are there. It is just common sense."

The current system has been described as "illogical" by the owner of a Belfast bar as Northern Ireland's hospitality sector suffers from staff shortages post-lockdown.

Pedro Donald, owner of the Sunflower Pub, said: "We, as in the hospitality sector, are crying out for staff. There's staff sitting there but we're not allowed to match up. It's ridiculous."

He added that giving asylum seekers the right to work "wouldn't solve the problem, but it would be a big help."

There are estimated to be more than 1,000 people seeking asylum in Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson for the Executive Office told UTV that it "is a matter for the Home Office."

Under current immigration laws, the Home Office has said it may grant permission to work to asylum seekers whose claim has been outstanding for more than 12 months through no fault of their own.

The Home Office was contacted for comment but they did not reply.

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