In a judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Bourne has held that the Home Office’s policy ‘Permission to work and volunteering for asylum seekers, Version 8.0’ is unlawful in that it unlawfully discriminates against trafficking victims and fails to identify the Home Office’s discretion to depart from rule 360 of the Immigration Rules which restricts asylum seekers’ permission to work to jobs on the shortage occupation list.
Paragraph 360 of the Secretary of State for the Home Department’s (‘SSHD’) Immigration Rules provides that asylum seekers may apply for permission to work where the SSHD has delayed for over a year in determining their claims for protection. Where permission to work is granted, the Home Office’s policy mandates that it may only be granted subject to jobs listed on the “Shortage Occupation list”; a list of skilled, mainly post-graduate jobs comprising of only 1% of the jobs market (see judgment §31). As the judge held “It seems reasonable to assume that very few if any of the individuals who come to the UK in circumstances comparable to those of the Claimant will be able to occupy such positions”. This means that asylum seekers are simply unable to work whilst they experience delays, through no fault of their own, on their asylum and protection claims.
The Claimant who brought this challenge is someone who has been recognised by the Home Office to have been trafficked to the United Kingdom for the purposes of domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. She applied for asylum in 2018 shortly after she had escaped her trafficker, but after waiting over a year for a decision from the Home Office, she applied for permission to work as a cleaner, providing evidence that it would assist her psychological and social recovery and protection from further exploitation. Despite this, she was refused permission to work as a cleaner and told that she only had permission to work in jobs that were listed on the Shortage Occupation list, all of which she was unable to benefit from. In light of this, she proceeded to bring a claim for judicial review challenging the legality of the Home Office’s Permission to Work policy. She has since been granted refugee status in the UK as she is recognised as someone who faces persecution on return to her home country, and has recently accepted a job to become a carer.
In allowing the claim for judicial review, the judge found that the Home Office’s permission to work policy is unlawful in that: