Restrictions on Right to Work for Asylum Seekers: The Case of the Scandinavian Countries, Great Britain and the Netherlands

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
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  • 1 Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway
  • 2 Researcher, NTNU- Social Research, Trondheim, Norway

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This article provides an overview of recent developments in restrictions regarding asylum seekers’ right to work in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Great Britain and the Netherlands. It is acknowledged that a distinction should be made between policies which regulate the right to work for i) asylum seekers with a pending application and ii) asylum seekers with a final refusal on their application. In the article, contemporary policies as well as recent changes in regulations in the five countries are described in detail and compared. Furthermore, the article discusses potential consequences of these policies. A review of relevant public documents, research and basic statistics are used in an attempt to answer the question whether the relative strictness of policies regarding right to work can be linked to the influx and return of asylum seekers in the surveyed countries. It is argued that access to work has little, if any, effect on variations in this respect. At the same time, it is maintained that reduced access to work has unintended consequences, inter alia, contributing to a further marginalisation of asylum seekers in both the application and return phase.

  • 10)

    European Commission, supra note 3, p. 7.

  • 11)

    Phuong, supra note 9; F. Webber, ‘How voluntary are voluntary returns?’, 52:4 Race & Class (2011) pp. 98‒107; M. Valenta et al., Asylsøkeres rett til å ta arbeid. Evaluering av konsekvenser av innstramminger i dokumentasjonskravet (NTNU Samfunnsforskning, Trondheim, 2011); M. Valenta and K. Thorshaug, ‘Asylum seekers’ perspectives on work and proof of identity: the Norwegian experience’, Refugee Survey Quarterly doi: 10.1093/rsq/hds002.

  • 13)

    OECD, supra note 12; OECD, International Migration Outlook (Sopemi, 2011).

  • 15)

    Neumayer, supra note 12; Brekke and Aarset, supra note 12; Valenta and Thorshaug, supra note 11.

  • 18)

    Andersson and Nilsson, supra note 2; Valenta et al., supra note 11.

  • 19)

    Phuong, supra note 9; Andersson and Nilsson, ibid,; Valenta et al., ibid., K. Vitus, ‘Zones of indistinction: Family life in Danish asylum centres’, 12:1 Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory (2011) pp. 95‒112.

  • 22)

    Phuong, supra note 9, p. 128; Webber, supra note 11.

  • 32)

    Until August 2010, the prerequisite for authorisation as a substitute for the requirement for a work permit was coupled to assessments of the length of the processing time for the asylum application. This rule was made more liberal in 2010, after which asylum seekers had a right to an exception from the work-permit requirement as soon as they arrived (NOU, ibid.).

  • 35)

    Vitus, supra note 19.

  • 36)

    Jørgensen and Meret, supra note 29.

  • 39)

    Valenta and Thorshaug, supra note 11.

  • 40)

    Phuong, supra note 9, p. 130.

  • 42)

    Sainsbury, supra note 27.

  • 44)

    OECD, supra note 13.

  • 46)

    UNHCR, supra note 43, p. 12.

  • 48)

    Robinson and Segrott, supra note 14; Vink and Meijerink, supra note 9; Neumayer, supra note 12; Brekke and Aarset, supra note 12.

  • 49)

    Andersson and Nilsson, supra note 2; Jørgensen and Meret, supra note 29.

  • 51)

    Parusel, supra note 30.

  • 58)

    Esping-Andersen, supra note 25.

  • 59)

    Sainsbury, supra note 27; M. Valenta et al., Avviste asylsøkere og ventemottaksordningen: mellom passiv tvang og aktiv returassistanse (NTNU Samfunnsforskning, Trondheim, 2010).

  • 60)

    Jørgensen and Meret, supra note 29. However, the recent amnesties in UK, the Netherlands and Great Britain have not led to long-term increases in the number of persons seeking asylum in these countries (see Figure 2).

  • 64)

    Phuong, supra note 9; Khosravi, supra note 21; K. Blitz and M. Otero-Iglesias, ‘Stateless By Any Other Name: Refused Asylum-Seekers in the United Kingdom’, 37:4 Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2011) pp. 657‒673.

  • 69)

    Phuong, supra note 9.

  • 71)

    Phillimore and Goodson, supra note 23; Lund Thomsen, supra note 29; A. Triandfyllidou, Irregular Migration in Europe. Myths and Realities (Ashgate, Farnham, 2010).

  • 72)

    European Commission, supra note 3.

  • 73)

    Da Lomba, supra note 23; Valenta et al., supra note 59; Valenta et al., supra note 11; European Commission, supra note 3.

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