Right to work for asylum seekers is an empty gesture without access to apprenticeships, campaigners say
2018-04-15 13:18:24 -
Human Rights


By Chinedu Onyejelem
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling on 9 February this year, asylum seekers in Ireland may apply for an employment permit like all other non-EEA nationals who wish to work here.
But one of the requirements they must meet is finding a job with a starting salary of at least €30,000.
In recent times, a number of asylum seekers who believe they can contribute to Ireland’s economic growth have told Metro Éireann about their difficulties in finding jobs that meet the rules.
The strict conditions currently rule out roles such as vocational apprenticeships in electrics, plumbing, construction and carpentry.
Lucky Khambule, co-ordinator of Masi, the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, agrees that such apprenticeships would benefit both asylum seekers and the economy as a whole. He blames the current situation on successive Governments for their failure to embrace the potential of asylum seekers while they await decision on their applications.
“Firstly, what we must understand is that the Government had a total ban to work for asylum seekers since the beginning of direct provision 18 years ago,” Khambule says. “It was always the pillar within the asylum process that holds direct provision and took the power from the asylum seekers. 
“It took the courts to force them to declare the right to work, [since which we have seen] these enormous restrictions, just to make sure that they are still in control of what to give and what not to give to asylum seekers, within the parameters of the law.”
Khambule says he and Masi “do not agree with these restrictions at all. Our stand is that the right to work must be meaningful and not be restrictive as it is now. The Government has opted to go with the EU directive on this, which will be implemented in few months; that too needs to be challenged.
“We agree with the notion that the way of apprenticeship on all these job sectors could be a way that would give hope and opportunity for asylum seekers, to finally have those qualifications and experience to be able to improve their employability. Maybe if the Government can consider this as well, we would appreciate such a move.”
However, in the short term, the Government’s non-recognition of apprenticeship as a pathway to the labour force for asylum seekers means that there is no easy way of helping them overcome the salary requirement.
The Department of Justice emphasises that Ireland is one of a handful of countries that will allow ‘almost full access’ to work for asylum seekers. But from a practical viewpoint, for the vast majority of those seeking asylum in the direct provision system, that promise of access is an empty gesture.


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