Call for measures to protect asylum seekers

The Irish human rights watchdog is to press the Government to ensure that measures to protect against exploitation are included in any conditions, for access to employment, for people living in direct provision.

Call for measures to protect asylum seekers

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will ask the government and the Oireachtas to ensure “an effective and enduring right to work under the Constitution is put in place”, following yesterday’s formal Supreme Court declaration that the absolute ban on asylum seekers working is unconstitutional.

Chief commissioner Emily Logan said: “The right to work is essential for realising other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity.”

The court ruled in May last year that the absolute ban was unconstitutional “in principle”. However, the court deferred making a formal declaration for six months to allow the legislature to address the situation.

When the issue came before the Supreme Court again last November the State asked for more time.

The court was told the Government was in the process of opting into the European Commission Reception Directive, which contains a provision requiring member states to afford the right to work in certain circumstances.

The court said it would make the declaration on February 9 regardless of what progress the State had made — which it did. On Thursday, several migrant rights and anti-racism organisations across the country held demonstrations, including outside the Dáil, in protest at “restrictive” measures put forward by the Government in relation to asylum seekers’ right to work.

The Irish Refugee Council is among the groups opposed to the Government’s interim proposal for the right to work via the Employment Permit process.

While the council welcomed yesterday’s Supreme Court declaration, a spokesperson said: “Realistically, we don’t want it to be something that is on paper, but can’t be put into practice.”

Current criteria exclude asylum seekers from up to 60 professions including positions in hospitality, healthcare, childcare, sales, food and construction, as well as requiring them to seek a job with a minimum starting salary of €30,000 that cannot be filled by an EU citizen, or a person with full migration permission in Ireland.

In a statement yesterday, Justice Minister Charles Flanagan said those measures are temporary. He said Ireland has signed up to a EU directive, which comes into effect in June, bringing us in line with EU norms in relation to the right to work.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said it will be seeking a meeting with Mr Flanagan to emphasise that new measures “need to be inclusive and universal, and do not create conditions likely to give rise to exploitation”.

The commission will also seek an early date to address the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on the matter.

The court case arose after the ban was challenged by a member of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar who spent eight years in direct provision before securing refugee status.

He had argued, while in direct provision on €19 weekly allowance, he suffered depression and loss of autonomy and being allowed to work was vital to his development, personal dignity and “sense of self-worth”.

He had attended all previous court hearings but was not in court yesterday. His solicitor Albert Llussa said he is unwell.

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