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2018-08-29T000000Z_622105460_RC1D695F6A70_RTRMADP_3_UN-CONFLICT-WELBY header.JPG
World News

Archbishop of Canterbury backs asylum shake-up said to give UK economy £1.2bn boost

by Heather Preston

A new report suggesting asylum seekers should be allowed to work in the UK as soon as they arrive has been backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has declared the current system is "broken".

The study from the Commission on the Integration of Refugees (CIR) recommends that migrants awaiting asylum be allowed to work in shortage professions straight away and in any sector after six months, a move it claims will boost the UK economy by £ 1.2 billion.

Currently, asylum seekers can't work for at least twelve months. After this time, they can only assume a role if it's on the job shortage occupation list.

The independent commission has made 16 evidence-based recommendations to improve the UK asylum system. Data from the London School of Economics (LSE) suggests that these recommendations will yield a net economic benefit of at least £1.2 billion within five years.

Two key recommendations to deliver this benefit are to provide English lessons to migrants upon arrival in the UK and employment support at six months. The CIR is also calling for the Government to meet its target of processing all asylum applications within the same timeframe and to reinstate a refugees minister.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said the report provides the UK with an informed basis to welcome and integrate refugees as "contributing members" of society.

"It's widely acknowledged that our asylum system is broken – it needs rebuilding with compassion, dignity and fairness at the centre. This requires thoughtful, well-informed consideration which promotes collaboration and common ground, not division," he said. "The final report from the Commission on the Integration of Refugees does precisely that."

Dr Ed Kessler, chair of the Commission told Premier Christian News the contributions of Most Rev Justin Welby and other faith leaders in support of the commission have been invaluable.

"I want to thank Archbishop Justin for his incredible support," he said. "Archbishop Justin's leadership is known in this area... and that has made a difference."

The Bishop of Chelmsford, a former refugee who arrived in the UK from Iran when she was 14 years old, is one of the report's commissioners.

Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani said: "Reasonable debate informed by evidence has shown that these are not insurmountable issues. We urge politicians to take note.

"Here is a set of practical and achievable solutions on how to create an asylum system that helps build a stronger, more resilient, and economically flourishing Britain – for everyone."

Other commissioners include Bishop Paul McAleenan, Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger, and Jehangir Malik, who represent a range of faith leaders.

The report has been released on the same day the Government's Rwanda deportation Bill returns to the House of Lords.

Dr Kessler told Premier Christian News that the commission - comprised of 22 commissioners from differing perspectives - is in stark contrast to Westminster.

"We have achieved consensus. We have come together to agree these recommendations. I compare that to the chaos of the House of Lords today and this ping pong debate. Our independent commission is specialising in bringing divergent views together to achieve consensus."

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