Guest Blog: Maryhill Integration Network - #LiftTheBan For People Seeking Asylum
Maryhill Integration Network is a charity bringing refugee, migrant and local communities together through art, social, cultural and educational groups and projects. They are funded through the Scottish Government Volunteering Support Fund.
Maryhill Integration Network welcome and work with people from all over the world, providing a space to connect, and learn. The people we work with are from a range of diverse backgrounds, many of them with extensive professional experience in a host of different industries and sectors. However, a large proportion of them are trapped in an asylum system which bans them from working.
During one of our regular sessions with MIN Voices, our advocacy and support group made up of people with lived experience of the asylum system, not being able to work was agreed upon as the key barrier contributing to stress,isolation and ill health for people seeking refuge. Following this, in 2018, we joined the Lift the Ban coalition, which is made up of over 200 organisations campaigning for the right to work for people seeking asylum. The coalition includes businesses, trade unions, charities, think tanks and faith groups.
In 2019, the MIN Voices group developed a video highlighting and sharing their experiences of not being able to work. In June 2019, with the Scotland Lift the Ban campaign partners, we took part in the national Lift the Ban action day and organised an event at Glasgow City Chambers with community groups, politicians and campaign partners.
When our community centre closed due to lockdown in March, we adjusted, adapted and continued some of our group sessions via online platforms and created new forms of work. The still-growing MIN Voices group continues to meet online to share updates, concerns and continue some of the campaigns.
The pandemic highlighted the specific difficulties asylum seekers faced - not being able to work as well as not access mainstream benefits meant an increased need for support. In reality, people seeking asylum have been trapped in a form of lockdown for years, already - without being able to get out and earn money, their freedom and health is limited.
In October, following the government guidelines, we gathered outside Glasgow City Chambers the same day the Lift the Ban petition was handed in to the parliament. The gathering was organised by the group members who support the campaign, want to be able to work and contribute to society.
We work with people who are accountants, teachers, carers and others with different experiences and skill sets. However, they are banned from working. People seeking asylum want to support themselves, contribute, pay taxes and be part of the community.
The right to work will make me a responsible citizen. Dignity of work will boost the economy of the UK and will find the way to overcome the shortage of skilled labour. If I get right to work as an asylum seeker, it will decrease my dependency on the Government and I will be able to pay tax
Pinki (not real name), MIN Voices member
The MIN Voices group is currently developing three short animation films, with support from our partners, highlighting the impact of not being able to work. These will be shared widely in February 2021.
We will continue to support the Lift the Ban campaign and raise awareness in Scotland of the long term social and economic impacts that the ban has on people seeking asylum and on the rest of society.