Many asylum seekers living in direct provision centres have described the right to work as “liberating”. The Ombudsman Peter Tyndall noted 1,845 out of 2,662 asylum seekers (70%) were granted permission to access the labour market in the past year.
The Supreme Court ruled in May 2017 that the blanket prohibition preventing asylum seekers from working was unconstitutional and the law was changed early last year. Mr Tyndall, who has today published a report on complaints from direct provision residents, said there were no complaints received from the 780 asylum seekers refused permission to work.
“My staff reported that in the course of their visits to accommodation centres, during the autumn of 2018, they received many comments from residents about how liberating they had found the ability to seek employment,” he said. Staff at the centres also commented about how the right to work had led to a positive change in the atmosphere of many of the centres. Asylum seekers in paid employment will be asked to pay a proportion of their accommodation costs, calculated at €238 per week per resident.
Mr Tyndall said he had no difficulty with the principle of people who are getting the benefit of a state service being asked to make a contribution towards the cost according to their means. The charges will be published by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) and any complaint about the calculation of the charges can be examined by the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman received 148 complaints from direct provision residents last year, compared to 115 over the nine-month period April to December 2017.
However, allowing for the different time periods, there was proportionally very little difference in the level of complaints received in 2018 compared to 2017. Most of the 148 complaints during 2018 related to the refusal of requests to transfer to other centres (32), facilities at centres (20), accommodation (14) and refusal to readmit residents to centres (13).
Mr Tyndall said the refusal of requests for readmission to a centre was a new subject of complaints against the RIA last year. While asylum seekers are entitled to avail of direct provision accommodation while their applications are processed, they are not obliged either to enter or remain in centres.
Mr Tyndall said that, following engagement with his office, the RIA arranged for the re-admission of 10 people into direct provision. There was one complaint from a resident who had been removed from direct provision for consistent unacceptable behaviour.
“I did not uphold the complaint as I accepted that it was not unreasonable for RIA to have removed the person concerned from the service as a result of their persistent unacceptable behaviour,” said Mr Tyndall.
Of the 32 complaints about transfers, only two were upheld by the Ombudsman. Nine were not upheld and, in seven cases, assistance was provided. In 11 cases, the complaint was either withdrawn or considered outside the remit of the Ombudsman and three are continuing.
In two cases not upheld by the Ombudsman, transfers were agreed by the RIA to reunite a person with family members and to allow another to avail of educational opportunities.