Saturday, 20 April 2024

Tragic Circumstances: Stockholm Asylum Seeker Bibby Dies Unaware of Granted Right to Work

Tragic Circumstances: Stockholm Asylum Seeker Bibby Dies Unaware of Granted Right to Work
Saturday, 20 January 2024 06:29

Unbeknownst to Leonard Farruku, the Albanian asylum seeker found dead on the Bibby Stockholm, he had been granted the right to work by the Home Office just days before his tragic demise, The Telegraph can disclose. At 27 years old, Leonard had aspired to build a new life in the UK, seeking employment and securing indefinite leave to remain. Having paid €4,000 (£3,435) to people smugglers for an illegal boat journey across the Channel in August 2022, he joined the ranks of over 12,000 Albanians making similar crossings that year with a primary focus on employment opportunities in the UK.

While categorized as an economic migrant, Leonard had initiated an asylum claim, actively under consideration by the Home Office at the time of his death on December 12, the previous year. Faced with the protracted asylum backlogs, he, like many others, sought permission to work in a shortage occupation, as permitted by Home Office regulations. Remarkably, he was granted a two-year work permit until December 2025, potentially making him one of over 16,000 asylum seekers eligible for employment in areas such as care homes, construction, and agriculture. Tragically, his permit, dispatched to his London solicitors, arrived on December 7, just five days before his passing.

Despite attempts by solicitors to reach Leonard, including a Whatsapp message with a copy of the permit sent by a UK-based cousin, their efforts proved futile. Calls and messages went unanswered, prompting speculation that he may have changed his phone number. Leonard's suspected suicide aboard Bibby Stockholm in Portland port, Dorset, on the following Monday, was marked by reported complaints about his mental health the previous Sunday, with fellow migrants claiming to have heard disturbing sounds from his cabin that night.

Had Leonard availed himself of the work permit, he could have earned 80% of the standard job rate and potentially sought private accommodation outside the barge. The heartbreaking incident sheds light on the chaotic state of asylum claim backlogs, a crisis that has burgeoned over the past decade, reaching a peak of 165,000 outstanding applications last year from a mere 14,000 in 2013.

The ongoing housing shortages faced by the Home Office have compelled them to allocate a staggering £8 million daily to accommodate asylum seekers in hotels. In a bid to alleviate costs, authorities have sought alternative solutions, including the transfer of individuals to seemingly 'cheaper' mass accommodation sites such as the Bibby barge and repurposed former RAF bases in Essex and Lincolnshire.

To mitigate expenses, the Home Office permits migrants to work if they have been awaiting asylum decisions for over a year. This not only saves the Treasury money, as individuals relinquish their £49.18 weekly benefits, provided their employment surpasses this sum, but also contributes to the economy by providing affordable foreign labor in critical shortage areas like care homes, the NHS, construction, and agriculture.

However, this policy has raised concerns among MPs and migration experts, who fear it has inadvertently become a 'pull' factor, enticing economic migrants to enter the UK illegally with the knowledge that they can work while seeking asylum. This echoes a historical precedent, as Sir Tony Blair's government, facing a migration crisis in 2002, abandoned the policy of allowing asylum seekers to work after six months due to similar concerns.

Notably, just a year later, Sir Tony Blair contemplated a 'migration nuclear option,' exploring measures such as offshoring asylum seekers in Africa and British territories – a precursor to the current government's Rwanda policy. However, the EU compelled the reversal of the 2002 decision in 2005 under European law, granting asylum seekers the right to apply for work permission after 12 months. Subsequent governments, including Theresa May in 2018 and Boris Johnson in 2021, confirmed this approach, restricting work permissions to shortage occupations.

Whether Leonard Farruku was aware of his eligibility to apply for work after a year remains uncertain. His sister, Jola Dushku, residing in Lombardia, Italy, emphasized his dream of finding better work and obtaining indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Friends shared that Leonard rejected advice to engage in the black economy, expressing his commitment to navigating the system properly. Tragically, his aspiration for indefinite leave to remain led him to the Bibby barge, where he spent his final days, unaware of the right to work he had been granted just before his untimely death.

Hailing from the rural north of Albania, Leonard Farruku's journey led him from his roots to Tirana, where, as a teenager, he worked as a pizza delivery driver. Having faced the loss of both his father and mother, Leonard made the poignant decision to seek a new life in the UK. He shared aspirations of opening a music studio and penning a book with relatives. However, the details of his asylum claim, guarded by solicitors and the Home Office under client confidentiality, remain undisclosed.

In the context of Albanian asylum claims, a staggering 80% face rejection. The remaining 15% predominantly involve women or girls who are victims of trafficking, while the remaining 5% are men, often citing threats to their lives if they were to return. Leonard's sudden demise, just days after gaining the right to work, has prompted investigations by both the police and the Home Office. His family, grappling with grief, anticipates answers to lingering questions in the upcoming summer inquest.

Marenglen Farruku, Leonard's cousin, expressed bewilderment at the tragedy. Leonard's pursuit of a better life in the UK had never hinted at distress, leaving the family with numerous unanswered questions about the circumstances surrounding his untimely death.

In conclusion, the life of Leonard Farruku, born in rural Albania and seeking a fresh start in the UK, took an unexpected turn with his tragic death just days after being granted the right to work. As investigations by the police and Home Office unfold, the inquest this summer holds the promise of shedding light on the circumstances leading to his apparent suicide. Leonard's aspirations for a brighter future, coupled with the unanswered questions surrounding his demise, leave his family grappling with a profound sense of loss. His story underscores the complexities of the asylum system, with client confidentiality shrouding details of his claim. The quest for a better life, marred by the challenges of navigating immigration processes, highlights the broader issues faced by asylum seekers. Ultimately, the upcoming inquest becomes a crucial avenue for seeking answers and understanding the circumstances surrounding Leonard's tragic end.

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