Asylum seeker work terms criticised in protests across country

New measures to allow asylum seekers to work in Ireland are impractical, say protesters.

Remi Kolawole, Glanmire; Roos Demol, one of the organisers, and Paul Archippe who lives in Cork city. Pic: Denis Minihane.

The simultaneous protests in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Limerick were held on the eve of today’s expected announcement by the Supreme Court, which is predicted to rule that banning asylum seekers from working is unconstitutional.

However, while the Dáil recently passed a motion declaring it will “opt-in” to an EU directive, which includes the provision of access to work, critics say the measures “make it all but impossible” for asylum seekers to gain employment.

Immigrant Council of Ireland chief executive, Brian Killoran, said that under the proposals, asylum seekers must apply for an employment permit through the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, before they can access employment, and must pay up to €1,000 to do so.

Furthermore, asylum seekers can only apply for jobs with a minimum salary of €30,000, and 60 areas of employment, including the retail and the hospitality sectors, are restricted.

“The Government’s temporary arrangements are so restrictive, they make this right to work virtually impossible, in practice,” said Mr Killoran.

“And this is before you consider the practical barriers facing asylum seekers, including gaps in CVs, potential difficulties having overseas qualifications recognised, access to IT to prepare applications and for interviews, plus the remote location of many direct provision centres.

“The Government is expecting to have all the boxes ticked to formally opt into the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive, by June, but the directive is not prescriptive on how EU member states should deliver access to the labour market.

“As the Irish Government has not yet mapped out the criteria for access to employment, when it comes into effect, we urge, in the strongest terms, for practical solutions, which actually allow asylum seekers to seek fulfilling and effective employment.”

Belgian Roos Demol, who attended the Cork protest in Daunt Square, yesterday, said the restrictions make it impossible for asylum seekers to access the labour market. 

“A job with a minimum wage of €30,000 a year would be hard for many Irish people to get, let alone an asylum seeker.

Gavin Monaghan, Bandon; Naomi Masheti, Cork Migrant Centre, and Mike Fitzgibbon, one of the organisers. Pic: Denis Minihane

“Some of the 60 areas restricted to asylum seekers include construction, childcare, and healthcare.

“The Government are ticking a box here, saying ‘we are allowing asylum seekers work’, but the restrictions make it impossible.

“What we want is full access to the labour market, so that asylum seekers can earn money, contribute to society, and help grow the economy. Who could be against that?” she said.

The changes came about after a case taken against the ban by a Rohingya man, who spent eight years in direct provision, before gaining refugee status.

In May last, the Supreme Court found the ban unconstitutional in principle and, in November, told lawyers representing the State that it would, today, make a formal declaration on the matter.

The declaration was delayed to allow the State make provisions to change the ban.


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