Refugee Action urges government to change volunteering guidance to include refused asylum seekers

The charity says the existing Home Office guidelines are misleading and that the definition of volunteering should include public sector bodies as well as charities

Refugee Action
Refugee Action

Refugee Action has launched a campaign urging the government to change its guidance on volunteering for asylum seekers so that people are not excluded from opportunities. 

The charity, which supports refugees and asylum seekers, said asylum seekers were legally allowed to volunteer in the UK, but "misleading" Home Office guidelines were holding them back.

As part of the campaign, A Right To Volunteer, launched to coincide with Volunteers’ Week, which runs until Friday, the charity calls for the Home Office to remove a line in the guidance that says refused asylum seekers cannot volunteer.

Refugee Action said that although the Home Office had verbally agreed that it had no legal authority to prevent volunteering at any state of the asylum process, the written rules did not reflect this.

The charity also wants the definition on volunteering in the guidelines to be broadened to include public sector organisations because it currently says that asylum seekers can volunteer only for registered charities or voluntary organisations.

A petition has been set up by the charity to gather support for the campaign.

Emma Makarova, national volunteering manager for Refugee Action, said: "We believe that people claiming asylum should be able to give their free time to benefit the communities they live in. Many of the people that we support have a diverse range of skills and expertise to offer but are often prevented from volunteering under existing immigration guidelines."

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations is backing the campaign’s call for the Home Office to broaden its definition of volunteering beyond charities. Justin Davis Smith, executive director of volunteering and development at the NCVO, said: "Rules that prevent asylum seekers from volunteering in the public sector need an urgent rethink. Many people seeking protection in this country want to contribute to the communities they live in, and they should be allowed to do so."

The Home Office was unable to respond before publication.

Jenna Pudelek

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