Letters: let asylum seekers work and we all win


Show caption Asylum seekers at a barracks in Folkestone, Kent. ‘Work would allow them to use their skills and live in dignity.’ Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Observer letters Letters: let asylum seekers work and we all win Farmers need labour and asylum seekers want to work: surely it’s time to lift the ban Sun 26 Dec 2021 06.00 GMT Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share via Email

I read with interest “Host of golden daffodils will rot in the fields for want of foreign pickers” (News). While farmers are struggling to recruit UK workers, the National Farmers’ Union lists the UK’s new points-based immigration system, which coincides with the free movement of EU citizens ending because of Brexit, as one of the reasons for this problem. Giving asylum seekers the right to work would allow them to use their skills and live in dignity. How can the government justify to farmers who need labour the policy of not allowing people who are already in the UK the right to fill these vacancies? How can you explain to a farmer who has no labour to harvest his fruit, vegetables or flowers that, yes, we have people who are eager to work but we will not allow it and if you employ them you will be breaking the law?

Refugee Action has been running a campaign to “lift the ban”. The Lift the Ban coalition report shows that a change in policy would result in an economic gain of £97.8m a year for the government as a result of additional tax revenues and savings. This is based on the amount that would be saved by not having to provide cash support plus the extra money received by the exchequer through payroll contributions from income tax and national insurance. Other sectors would also benefit from a change in this Kafkaesque scenario.

Virginia Brown

Talgarth, Powys

What about the victims?

Who would argue with Catherine Bennett about the need for tougher penalties for dangerous, careless, uninsured, irresponsible or even intoxicated drivers (“Pity the poor, oppressed driver forced to share their roads with the rest of us”, Comment)? But what she misses is the impact on the victims. Society pays little attention to those seriously but not fatally injured, whose livelihoods are lost as a result of someone else’s wrong decisions. They are left to the machinations of insurance companies whose motivation seems to be minimising and delaying compensation pay-outs. The companies’ prolonged negotiations leave victims with no financial cover when they need it most and mental and physical suffering.

By all means pile up the righteous indignation if it will prevent future carnage but spare a few thoughts for the many permanently injured people whose lives are never the same after a chance encounter on the road.

Yvonne Williams

Ryde, Isle of Wight

My fears for future of the NHS

I, too, am very worried about the future of the NHS (“A dangerous lie is stalking the NHS: that it is no longer fit for purpose”, Comment). Since 1948, many on the right have been keen to kill it off. However, until recently, the popularity of the NHS has prevented this.

The way the Tories traditionally move a public service into the private sector is to underfund it to the point that the public will agree to any change in the hope of seeing it improve. This was classically demonstrated by the way the railways were run down in the 1980s in order to privatise them in the 1990s. NHS funding stagnated between 2010 and 2016, with the corresponding rise in waiting lists to 4.5 million pre pandemic. The political strategy could not be any more transparent.

John Kinder

Romsey, Hampshire

No ‘papers, please’

Last week, Unlock Democracy, Open Britain and Fair Vote UK wrote to all the Conservative Covid rebels about the elections bill. We pointed out that, if it is passed, to be allowed to vote people will need to present photographic identity documents. This unnecessary requirement will cost up to £180m over 10 years and actively discriminates against young, older and disabled voters. For Conservative rebels committed to fighting a “papers, please” society, there will be a chance at the report stage of this bill to stand up and be counted and defeat photo voter ID. I fear many will be missing in action.

Tom Brake, director, Unlock Democracy

London N1

Scrum down, Michael

Your rugby union correspondent, Michael Aylwin, writes that primary-school teacher is a euphemism for “part-timer” in his report on Cardiff’s heroic performance against Harlequins in the Champions Cup (“Dombrandt’s double helps break resistance of Cardiff’s kids”, Sport). Is he up for changing jobs in January with Cardiff’s stand-in hooker, Evan Yardley?

Rob Walker

Linthwaite, Huddersfield

Papal firefighter

One factor Simon Tisdall might have mentioned in his thoughtful article (“The world is ablaze. Xi, Putin and Biden must join the firefighters”, Foreign affairs commentary): while each world leader’s interest is in protecting his/her back, the one voice that reaches every corner of the world and consistently advocates the common good is Pope Francis. He urges world leaders not simply to look after their own interests but to work together to abolish nuclear weapons and capital punishment, to oppose interests that selfishly squander natural resources and damage the world’s ecosystems, to make refugees welcome in more prosperous countries, to put an end to the enslavement and trafficking of vulnerable women and to make the sharing of technology to defeat Covid a priority.

Guido Waldman

London N1

Follow this school’s rules

Angela Neustatter’s article was a beautiful account of her grandmother’s role as AS Neill’s partner in founding the extraordinary Summerhill school as it celebrates a century of existence against all the odds (“My grandmother’s forgotten role in the school with no rules”, Focus). She rightly also referred to the debt the school owes to the “charismatic” Zoe Redhead, Neill’s daughter and successor. At a time when the pressures on childhood and adolescence have made being a “good enough parent” so much more difficult, Redhead has just written Barefoot in November: Parenting the Summerhill Way. It is published by the Summerhill Trust and is, a guide to hard-pressed parents – and grandparents and other guardians, for that matter – on how to cope with the everyday, and increasingly vexed, issues of family life.

Summerhill is not, as your headline suggests, “the school with no rules”; it has plenty, but the children are involved in agreeing and enforcing them. A failure to involve pupils in the running of our schools has been a drag on school improvement, especially in England, and has led to a decade-long fad for “zero tolerance” and “assertive discipline”, which has resulted in 1,500 pupils being permanently excluded from English schools for every one excluded in Scotland. More of us should find out what Scotland is doing so well and of course buy Zoe Redhead’s book.

Tim Brighouse


Maggie in Madrid

A footnote to your article about Spain’s rightwingers and their gatherings in Madrid’s Plaza de Colón (“‘A Francoist daydream’: how Spain’s right clings to its imperial past”, World, last week). Just off Colón you will find Plaza Margaret Thatcher.

Janet Ruane

Leamington Spa

• The headline of this letters package was amended on 29 December 2021 because an earlier version incorrectly referred to “refugees” when the plea in the first letter was to remove the legal bar and allow asylum seekers to work.