You came here because you had no choice. It cost you your country, your home, your dignity, your freedom, your family, your friends, your job, your baby.

The UK government says you cannot work.

The UK press say you are a burden, a drain on public funds. A lie made a reality by government policy.

You say LET ME WORK.

Give me dignity. Give me freedom.

This isn’t the story of one person, it is the collective experience of asylum seekers who come to the UK. Not many are lucky enough to be hosted. For individuals, their lives are bleak variations on the same theme.

‘Asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ are just labels that make the nightmare of these people’s lives somehow more palatable, sanitised and less relatable for the general public. They are not other, they are us. Would you accept the same for yourself, a friend or your family?

This is our petition, for a basic human right: the right to be allowed to work.

Our chefs have talent and passion. They deserve the opportunity to thrive, not to barely survive.

Our hope is by telling the real stories offered by our Migrateful chefs, that you will understand the reality of what they are forced to endure.

Without the right to work, they are without dignity and purpose, they struggle with their mental health, and they feel like a prisoner in almost every way – and if they get detained, they get the bars too. The full set. Fun Fact – the Home Office have the power to detain people without a statutory time limit.

These brutal, uncaring and calculated decisions by the Home Office force already vulnerable people very effectively into destitution. They are barred from participating in the economy, the most effective means they have to help themselves…

The Home Office would tell you that they provide support for (eligible) asylum seekers – £37.73 a week and housing that has recently been condemned as unfit for human habitation.

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.’

By that definition, the Home Office is guilty of forcing thousands of people into poor mental health.

The LiftTheBan coalition are calling for the ban on working to be lifted for asylum seekers whose cases have been pending for more than 6 months. They estimate 11,000 people would benefit immediately and that the UK economy could gain £42.4m per year. It’s wonderful that it makes financial sense, but the truth is, even if it cost us money – it would still be the right thing to do.

If you are feeling powerless right now, that’s good – it’s because you care.

But we are not powerless and we can make a difference. Please sign this petition calling on the Home Secretary to lift the ban on working – and share it widely. #LiftTheBan #Migrateful

Written by Hadrian Holloway – Support Worker at Housing Justice and Migrateful volunteer

N.B. Migrateful exists to empower and celebrate refugees and vulnerable migrants on their journey to integration by supporting them to run their own cookery classes. The project will be sharing more stories of asylum seekers people’s lives over the next few weeks and months- check out their latest blog here.