Call for human rights focus on asylum seeker work access
2018-05-15 10:32:53 -
By Chinedu Onyejelem
  Resolving barriers to accessing paid work for asylum seekers needs a continued human rights focus from the State, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has said.
  Addressing members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, the IHREC also warned that the swift legal fix following last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling must not be the end.
  Chief commissioner Emily Logan and commission member Prof Siobhán Mullally highlighted the IHREC’s recommendations on the State’s opt-in to the EU’s Reception Conditions Directive, aimed at granting access to work for asylum seekers.
  “Restrictions on the sectors in which asylum seekers may work should be limited to the greatest possible degree, and access to employment should not be contingent on wage, salary or working time restrictions which are not generally applicable to other job seekers,” according to the IHREC proposals, which also call for access o be granted “no later than six months after an application for asylum”.
  The commission also suggested that “any limitations that may apply should be devised with the principle of ‘effective access’ as the primary consideration.” Such limitations “should be based on publicly articulated and available policy criteria, which are subject to regular review.”
  The IHREC also highlighted the issue of “administrative barriers” which can be overcome “through training of officials” and “provision of accessible information” for asylum seekers.
  “A sustainable solution means viewing the Reception Conditions Directive as a floor, not a ceiling,” said Logan. “It involves considering provision of access to employment in the wider context, in which the State has an obligation to ensure that the right to work is effectively protected and that the human rights of all those seeking asylum are respected.
  “Ensuring a right to work while seeking asylum is critical to overcoming both direct and indirect discrimination, in overcoming barriers to integration, in ensuring equality in access to employment and effective enjoyment of the human right to work, and equal enjoyment of rights in the workplace.
  “The policy choices that Ireland makes in how it opts into this Directive are critical ones, which should be given careful consideration by the Oireachtas,” Logan added.
The IHREC criticised the interim measures put in place by the Department of Justice following the Supreme Court ruling – which mandate payment of at least €500 for an employment permit, and prevent asylum seekers from taking jobs with a starting salary below €30,000 – warning that they “are insufficient to provide effective or meaningful access to employment.”
  The commission also said that with the opt-in, direct provision is now on a statutory basis and therefore underpinned by EU law for the very first time, which will potentially permit for more direct parliamentary enquiry into the controversial asylum-seeker accommodation system.
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