Treat asylum seekers as human beings

Current asylum legislation is punitive to asylum seekers – that is people who have come to the UK to seek asylum from persecution.  These people have suffered in their home countries and deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.  Instead, we criminalise (and often detain) them.  Many aspects of asylum legislation should be repealed but two aspects are particularly punishing – the ban on working, and the removal of support to those on appeal.  Asylum seekers are often well qualified, well educated people – they are those lucky enough to have scraped toghether the money to make it to the UK.  We should allow them to work and contribute whilst waiting for their asylum decision.  This would improve their lives, and allow them to contribute.  The removal of support whilst waiting for appeal is even worse – many people who will eventually be granted leave to remain in the UK are effectively forced into homelessness, destitution, dependence and desperation.  This is not the act of a civilised society.   We may be facing relatively hard times, but we should always remember that there are many worse off than we are.  The mark of a civilised society is how it treats the most vulnerable members.

Why is this idea important?

Current asylum legislation is punitive to asylum seekers – that is people who have come to the UK to seek asylum from persecution.  These people have suffered in their home countries and deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.  Instead, we criminalise (and often detain) them.  Many aspects of asylum legislation should be repealed but two aspects are particularly punishing – the ban on working, and the removal of support to those on appeal.  Asylum seekers are often well qualified, well educated people – they are those lucky enough to have scraped toghether the money to make it to the UK.  We should allow them to work and contribute whilst waiting for their asylum decision.  This would improve their lives, and allow them to contribute.  The removal of support whilst waiting for appeal is even worse – many people who will eventually be granted leave to remain in the UK are effectively forced into homelessness, destitution, dependence and desperation.  This is not the act of a civilised society.   We may be facing relatively hard times, but we should always remember that there are many worse off than we are.  The mark of a civilised society is how it treats the most vulnerable members.

Health & Safety for government employees overseas

I work in a British Embassy overseas (not saying which one for fear of identification!).  Since I arrived here, I've been AMAZED at the health and safety rules applied to staff housing.  In one of the biggest cities in the world, only four apartment blocks are deemed "safe" for staff to live in.  I have asked to live in a number of different apartments, but they have been turned down because (I quote) "the internal glazing is too thin" or "balustrades do not meet UK safety standards".  I believe that if you are asking employees to be responsible for UK foreign policy, they can probably also be responsible for watching out for the balustrades in their apartments.  This is taken to absolutely ridiculous lengths – for instance, mattresses have been shipped out from the UK to the other side of the world for all staff flats, as locally bought IKEA mattresses are deemed unsafe (although they meet EU safety standards).  This is all justified as part of an employers "duty of care" stemming from Health & Safety legislation.

Not only is this unnecessary control of people's personal lives (who wants to live in the same apartment block as their boss and colleagues….?), it's also a massive waste of tax-payers money.  Unsurprisingly, all the "safe" apartment blocks are the most expensive in town.  Every other apartment I have tried to move to has been much cheaper and would have been a saving to the public purse.  There is also a whole team of people employed in the Embassy responsible for enforcing these ridiculous rules.

In direct comparison, none of the other Embassies or multi-national companies in the city have any health & safety restrictions on staff housing.  This means people choose what is best for them and their families, are happier, more productive and the employers save money. 

My idea is very simple: The government should interpret "duty of care" legislation in a proportionate way.  Where the security situation allows, UK government employees overseas should be allowed to choose their own housing without health and safety restrictions.  If there is a real potential safety issue (e.g. electrical problems), staff should be asked if they want to accept the risk themselves (sign a disclaimer).

Why is this idea important?

I work in a British Embassy overseas (not saying which one for fear of identification!).  Since I arrived here, I've been AMAZED at the health and safety rules applied to staff housing.  In one of the biggest cities in the world, only four apartment blocks are deemed "safe" for staff to live in.  I have asked to live in a number of different apartments, but they have been turned down because (I quote) "the internal glazing is too thin" or "balustrades do not meet UK safety standards".  I believe that if you are asking employees to be responsible for UK foreign policy, they can probably also be responsible for watching out for the balustrades in their apartments.  This is taken to absolutely ridiculous lengths – for instance, mattresses have been shipped out from the UK to the other side of the world for all staff flats, as locally bought IKEA mattresses are deemed unsafe (although they meet EU safety standards).  This is all justified as part of an employers "duty of care" stemming from Health & Safety legislation.

Not only is this unnecessary control of people's personal lives (who wants to live in the same apartment block as their boss and colleagues….?), it's also a massive waste of tax-payers money.  Unsurprisingly, all the "safe" apartment blocks are the most expensive in town.  Every other apartment I have tried to move to has been much cheaper and would have been a saving to the public purse.  There is also a whole team of people employed in the Embassy responsible for enforcing these ridiculous rules.

In direct comparison, none of the other Embassies or multi-national companies in the city have any health & safety restrictions on staff housing.  This means people choose what is best for them and their families, are happier, more productive and the employers save money. 

My idea is very simple: The government should interpret "duty of care" legislation in a proportionate way.  Where the security situation allows, UK government employees overseas should be allowed to choose their own housing without health and safety restrictions.  If there is a real potential safety issue (e.g. electrical problems), staff should be asked if they want to accept the risk themselves (sign a disclaimer).