Home Office ‘work-to-eat’ scheme dealt a blow by charity’s withdrawal

The YMCA has pulled out of the Home Office’s plan to force failed
asylum seekers to work in exchange for living support amid fierce
condemnation of the scheme.

In an apparent u-turn, YMCA England said it would not be running a
pilot project in Liverpool after it transpired that it would be
impossible to focus on the “needs and wishes” of the 40 applicants
as they had hoped.

The charity, thought to be alone in accepting the Home Office’s
invitation to bid for pilot scheme funding, insists it was fully
aware of the law, before going into consultation with the Home
Office. The law stipulates that those who have had their asylum
application rejected will have to work up to 35 hours a week to
receive food and lodging.

Richard Capie, YMCA head of external communications, said the
charity had “always had concerns” about the compulsory nature of
the law but admitted the decision to withdraw from negotiations
came following a meeting with local groups who would be involved in
implementing the scheme last week.

At the meeting, attended by the police, local councillors and
voluntary and charity bodies, the YMCA and the Home Office
encountered “unanimous opposition” to the proposals, according to
Rashid Iqbal, asylum manager of Refugee Action’s Liverpool office.

“YMCA England quite clearly hadn’t thought out what the asylum
seekers would be expected to do,” Iqbal said, adding that they
would have been unable to implement the pilot scheme without the
support of voluntary groups and charities and faced the prospect of
either commissioning the private sector or ending involvement in
the scheme.

The Home Office said that it was still in consultation with the
YMCA over setting up pilots in other parts of the UK, although
Capie said that the charity would only run a pilot scheme elsewhere
if it was done on a voluntary basis.

“The YMCA were quite taken aback at the level of opposition.” Iqbal
said. “The local authority was vehemently opposed to supporting
this scheme. Most of the voluntary organisations there consider
this as some form of slave labour. I only hope that the message
went back to the Home Office and they do not try and set it up

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