An African woman perspective on gaining asylum: Working permits a total frustration to asylum seek

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Mon 26th Aug, 2013





Why does one flee his/her country, if not because they are in some way persecuted or their living conditions force them to strike camp and leave home. There was a reason behind you leaving home for good, looking to find refuge in unknown surroundings, a completely different place. Though you think that you have overcome the most dangerous part of your journey, your "new" home might not be as welcoming as you thought it would be. When the asylum case rolls and the waiting is endless, a feeling of uncertainty will follow you all the time, unsure how long the final decision might take. Once again your life is turned upside down and while you still hope, you get weary and depressed by being bound to doing nothing, because as long as your asylum is in process one is not allowed to work and this is not because we don't want to work rather because we are not allowed to by law, at least not in the first 12 months of ones asylum application. This has left many idling in their asylum premises or even opting out for black jobs to get an income.
A colleague of mine, Sarah, was in dare need for a job to be able to support her four little kids back in Uganda, however getting the work permit has proved harder than going through a needle's eye. Sarah needed first to fill out the job application forms together with her would be employer and later hand them over to necessary immigration authorities. The waiting started for Sarah, it took her six months to get the feedback. For heavens sake which would be employer can be that patient to wait for someone who to employ. This is no expert job we are talking about. but rather a cleaning job in a hotel. That job went by leaving the young lady totally frustrated. She got a second chance, again she picked up the required forms from the authorities, filled them out with her second would be employer and once again it took weeks before she got a positive feedback. Unfortunately the potential employer could not wait any longer and so the vacant position was filled up before Sarah got the acceptance to work. The young lady so disillusioned lamented to me her wish to sit back and relax but the demands of her children back was calling. Her husband had been killed by government officials leaving her as the soul carer for their four children.
The young lady never gave up, she looked around for another potential employer, to our surprise many employers freaked away from employing asylum seekers because of the tedious immigration process and the ridiculous waiting time for the working acceptance. What happened is that employment agencies would first make sure the unemployed nationals are given priority and sent to this vacant position at the exemption of the person who went out to find the job herself. A lot of times the unemployed nationals are not taking the initiative to find the jobs, neither are they interested in these cleaning jobs anyway. Because of this, asylum applicants hardly have a chance to find a job.
On the other hand we are only allowed to search for jobs not country wide but relatively in our registered place of residence. The process has been very frustrating to many of us, leaving us to boredom in our asylum home surroundings. We of cause are left with no choice but depend on government support yet many of us could work, earn and pay taxes. Many have been left miserable because of the endless waiting and the shattered hopes of a job. Only the recognised asylum seekers have the right to work but not those whose cases are still under scrutiny.
So for the case of Sarah, she eventually gave it another go with getting the working permit, this time around the would be employer another hotel in the city opted to wait for as long it would take for the work acceptance to return from immigration office. With luck the forms took only a month before she could be allowed to work. She has now been working for a year and needs to renew her work permit. Sarah would have to continue working for this hotel because changing jobs will mean her going through the frustrating yet at times unsuccessful work permit application process at the immigration, which she does not want to experience again, bearing in mind that her asylum case is still in process.

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