Govt eases work rules for asylum seekers
2018-07-01 12:28:40 -
By Chinedu Onyejelem

Asylum seekers waiting nine months or more to receive a decision on their application for refugee status are now entitled to seek employment in the State, the Department of Justice has announced.


The decision follows the Supreme Court’s ruling in May 2017 that the ban on asylum seekers taking up employment was unconstitutional, and aligns Ireland with EU norms and standards

under the Reception Conditions Directive 2013.


Per the new rules, asylum seekers may seek employment in all sectors of the economy except for the civil and public service, An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces - broadly in line with the regime for Stamp 4 residency holders.


The new legislation removes work permit fees as well as the minimum salary requirements that were widely criticised when interim rules were set in place earlier this year.


However, the rules stipulate that asylum seekers must have co-operated with the asylum process before being granted access to the labour market.


The directive also fortifies existing provisions in different areas such as housing, health and food.


“I am delighted that the Government has approved a broad and generous access to the labour market for qualified applicants amongst a number of other important reforms in a range of areas covered by the directive, including reception conditions for applicants, improved identification of vulnerability and children’s rights,” said Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.


“These measures are a further step on the road we have pursued in recent years to significantly reform our protection process. Effective access to the labour market will help to alleviate social and economic exclusion for applicants and avoid long-term dependency on the State.”


Minister Flanagan added that Ireland is now one of the few EU member states to allow eligible asylum seekers to engage in self-employment.


Qualified asylum seekers are directed to apply for a ‘labour market permission’ from the Labour Market Access Unit (LMAU) of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).


Successful applicants would be granted a renewable six-month work permit.


“This will promote the integration into Irish society of asylum seekers and their families,” said Minister of State David Stanton. “Ireland has a range of immigration pathways for third-country nationals who wish to work here, but this new policy is designed specifically for qualified international protection applicants.”


The UN refugee agency was among those welcoming the new regulations. “Offering asylum seekers access to the labour market will significantly improve the integration prospects of people waiting long periods for decisions on their applications,” said Maria Hennessy, assistant protection officer with the UNHCR. “Long waiting periods for a decision combined with not being allowed to work can lead to dependency, isolation and disempowerment among those in need of protection.”


It is estimated that some 5,200 asylum seekers were awaiting a decision on their status from the International Protection Office at the end of 2017. More than half (2,926) were new applicants, of which 515 were relocated from Greece.


Asylum seekers presently wait an average of 19 months to receive an interview under new procedures introduced last year. At the end of May 2018, 723 asylum seekers were waiting three years or more for a decision on their applications at the International Protection Office and the International Protection Appeals Tribunal.

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