Refugee Action presents petition on the right of asylum seekers to volunteer

The petition, which was signed by 1,400 people, was handed in to the Home Office by Nabil Al-inzy, a volunteer for the charity and a former asylum seeker

Nabil Al-inzy
Nabil Al-inzy

Refugee Action has handed a petition to the Home Office calling on it to change rules that prevent failed asylum seekers from volunteering.

The petition, signed by 1,400 supporters, urges the Home Office to change its guidance so that people whose asylum claim has been refused are legally entitled to volunteer.

The campaign also calls for a broader definition of volunteering so that asylum seekers who are awaiting a decision could volunteer for public sector organisations. Existing guidance says that asylum seekers can volunteer only for registered charities and voluntary organisations.

Refugee Action launched its Right to Volunteer campaign during Volunteers’ Week last month.

It has won support from Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees.

Emma Makarova, national volunteering manager at Refugee Action, said being told that you could not volunteer was "both degrading and humiliating".

"Handing in the petition is only the first step in this important campaign," she said. "We won’t stop until the guidance is changed and there is awareness at a local level that asylum seekers have every right to volunteer."

Nabil Al-inzy, a Refugee Action volunteer who claimed asylum in the UK from Kuwait in 2007 and was granted leave to remain the following year, handed the petition in.

"I started volunteering to help other people find their way through the immensely complex asylum system and to help them access essential community services such as GPs, libraries and reporting centres," he said.

"It is so important for people claiming asylum to be able to give up their free time and give something back to the community they live in."

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said that the department was reviewing its policy after discussions with partners including Refugee Action.

She said the department expected failed asylum seekers to focus their efforts on returning to their own countryies.

She said that people with ongoing asylum claims could work for registered charities, "but we recognise there may be other volunteering opportunities in the public sector that could benefit both the community and individuals awaiting their final application decision".

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