Access to work for those seeking asylum: Concerns arising from British and Swedish legal strategies

Petra Herzfeld Olsson, Tonia A Novitz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This article seeks to probe the controversial relationship between seeking asylum and the permission (or obligation) to work. In doing so, we recognise the concurrent claims that can be made for asylum and access to the labour market, problematizing the concept of ‘work’ and its relationship to freedom and dignity from the perspective of international refugee law and European human rights norms alongside European Union (EU) law. We examine how British and Swedish legal systems have reflected two starkly opposed policy stances. The UK has long denied asylum seekers the financial and psychological benefits that come with work usually until refugee status is formally granted, but the Swedish system has facilitated a complementary pathway for asylum seekers whose labour can make (what is determined politically to be) a sufficient contribution to the economy. We identify the perceived benefits and failings of each strategy. In this context, we observe that the status quo in both countries is changing and even arguably converging around an illiberal consensus regarding the relationship between asylum and work, which will demand further attention and potentially legal challenge in the years to come.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberdwae004
JournalIndustrial Law Journal
Early online date12 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Mar 2024

Structured keywords

  • Perspectives on Work
  • Centre for Law at Work
  • Migration Mobilities Bristol
  • Human Rights Implementation Centre


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