Up to 3,000 asylum seekers prepare to join the workforce

Asylum seekers will soon be allowed to work, but face cuts to their allowances and extra accommodation costs according to their income levels.

The Government has voluntarily agreed to implement an EU directive and a court ruling which will give asylum seekers in the main the same working rights as Irish nationals.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan promised safeguards would be put in place, including work inspectors, to prevent employers taking advantage of vulnerable migrants seeking work.

The changes are expected to result in 3,000 asylum seekers joining the workforce in the coming months.

The move comes after years of criticism of how vulnerable asylum seekers in direct provision have been deprived of rights.

A landmark court judgment involving a Burmese man last year ruled the ban should be lifted.

Following an interim arrangement requiring fees and restrictions for work options, the Government has now agreed to allow asylum seekers access almost all workplaces and with equal rights.

Under the changes, asylum seekers can apply for work permits nine months after their protection application is lodged, if they have yet to receive a “first-instance recommendation” or decision on their application.

There will be no charges for permits. Work permission papers will last for six months and must be renewed thereafter provided an asylum seeker has not received a final decision.

Applicants will also be able to apply for temporary, permanent, or self-employed roles.

Migrants seeking protection will be able to work in nearly all sectors, except for some restrictions. These include jobs requiring long-term residence, the civil or public service, An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, as well as embassy or consulate roles.

Mr Flanagan insisted normal working rights would apply for asylum seekers taking up roles. Inspectors will monitor changes.

Employers will also be restricted to taking on a maximum of half of their staff from the new permit holders.

However, asylum seekers will see their weekly allowance of €21.60 reduced on a sliding scale according to amounts their earn. They could also be asked to foot accommodation costs of up to €35 a day in direct provision centres, depending on their income.

Justice officials said no asylum applicants would be asked to leave direct provision centres.

Brian Merriman, from the Department of Justice, said employers’ group Ibec wanted asylum seekers to be allowed take up positions as there was a “labour shortage”.

Mr Flanagan said it was not just about gaps in the labour market but also about the new skills migrants might bring.

The Irish Refugee Council praised the changes, and welcomed the decision not to limit access to a restrictive list of occupations or charge an expensive administrative fee.

Nonetheless, chief executive Nick Henderson said the reduction or withdrawal of allowances needs to be monitored.

“People in direct provision may not have had the opportunity to gather savings or develop social networks in Ireland.”

 

“The housing crisis has also made it very difficult for people to find accommodation outside direct provision.”


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