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Johnson faces a Commons rebellion over the UK Borders Bill

Boris Johnson faces a major rebellion in the House of Commons next week Law on Nationality and Frontiers with at least 27 Tory MPs backing an amendment that would allow asylum seekers to work in the UK while they await the outcome of their application.

Conservative colleagues have already inflicted defeat on the Prime Minister in the House of Lords over the amendment tabled by Baroness Philippa Stroud, former head of the Think Tanks Center for Social Justice.

Now the move has the backing of a broad coalition of Conservative MPs ranging from right-wingers like Steve Baker to centrist One Nation Tories, including former Cabinet ministers Robert Buckland and Andrew Mitchell.

It also has the support of all opposition parties in the House of Commons and 39 Conservative peers, including Lord Jo Johnson – the Prime Minister’s brother – and Baroness Ruth Davidson.

In a letter signed by the 66 Conservative politicians and seen by the FT, Stroud urged ministers to consider an extension the right to work for asylum seekers and their adult relatives who have been waiting for a decision for more than six months. The move comes ahead of a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday over the Lords’ changes to the legislation.

The controversial bill would overturn traditional interpretations of the UK’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention by making it a criminal offense to enter the UK illegally to seek asylum. It would only offer temporary protection to those who can prove their right to refugee status but have entered the UK clandestinely to make the application or have entered via a safe third country.

The provisions could affect the rights of Ukrainians fleeing the war if they apply for asylum after traveling to the UK via either Poland or Romania, which the UK deems safe countries. However, Ukrainians admitted under the government’s family reunification program or the Homes for Ukraine program are not expected to apply for asylum.

The government faces other possible rebellions over the bill, including dozens of Tory MPs opposing plans to process asylum seekers’ applications outside the UK.

A Home Office official defended the bill, saying the “vast majority” of voters supported the law because they wanted to tackle the problem of the small boats that bring illegal immigrants across the English Channel to Britain.

He said it would “fix our broken asylum system” by “blocking and protecting people from making dangerous journeys into the UK.”[ing] those in need through safe and legal channels.”

He said the government opposed the Stroud Amendment because work permits for asylum seekers were a “pull factor” encouraging more economic migrants to come to the UK. However, the government’s Migration Advisory Committee said there was no strong evidence to support this claim.

Stroud said YouGov polls showed more than 80 percent of people think asylum seekers should be given the right to work. “The government offered Ukrainians the right to work because of the clear benefits that the policy brings to the economy and integration,” she said in her letter to the government.

“It seems absurd that in a time of labor shortages we would keep any asylum seeker – including Afghans, Syrians or Hong Kongers – out of work while they await a decision. It’s a policy that would bring significant fiscal good fortune and encourage inclusion, and is consistent with the conservative belief that work is the best route out of poverty.”

According to official figures, 81,000 people were waiting for their first asylum decision.

additional reporting by Robert Wright

https://www.ft.com/content/340de155-dac1-4ab5-8e1a-02d7a39479ef Johnson faces a Commons rebellion over the UK Borders Bill

Adam Bradshaw

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