Refugee groups blast Govt’s impossible hurdles for asylum seeker labour market access
2018-02-01 17:12:00 -

By Chinedu Onyejelem


Pro-refugee support groups have branded the Government’s provisions for employment access for asylum seekers as “immensely restrictive”.


Following a landmark ruling last summer, the Supreme Court is expected to declare Ireland’s ban on employment for asylum seekers unconstitutional when it meets on 9 February.


Last month Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan announced details of the Government’s response to the ruling, proposing to give asylum seekers access to employment permits — with fees of up to €1,000 applying, and only for jobs with a starting salary of at least €30,000.


In separate statements, Doras Luimní and the Irish Refugee Council said the Government’s plan would likely be a fantasy for many.


“The interim measures announced by the minister are immensely restrictive and unsatisfactory,” said Leonie Kerins, CEO of Doras Luimní. “The employment permit scheme is not an effective right to work for asylum seekers and will have little if any impact on the people subsisting in direct provision on an income of just over €20 per week, awaiting progress on their cases.”


Kerins also criticised the Government for waiting eight months before announcing “little progress” on the issue since the Supreme Court judgement last May. 


“Minister Charlie Flanagan has simply announced his intention to further delay the implementation of work rights for asylum seekers, despite the clear requirement for action,” she added.


“Ireland has been criticised internationally for long delays in decision making, leaving those seeking protection to survive in emergency accommodation with limited rights for several years. While progress has recently been made to address the delays and human rights violations in theory, we continue to await real action and progress.”


Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, also raised concerns over the Government’s stance.


“We are concerned about when people will be able to access this right,” he said. “As previously stated by us, waiting times in asylum status determination in Ireland are at crisis point. Thousands of people have already waited for more than a year for an initial decision. The right to work should be retrospective and immediately available to people in this position.”


Henderson added that it is  “very discouraging to still hear concerns about the right to work being a ‘pull factor’. Various studies clearly show no long-term correlation between labour market access and destination choice for protection applicants. 


“As Ireland is already significantly out of step with other member states of the EU, it is misleading to state that providing a right to work will lead to an increase in protection applications.”


Both Doras Luimní and the Irish Refugee Council urged the Government to allow asylum seekers unrestricted ‘effective access’ to the labour market as stipulated under the EU Reception Conditions Directive.


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