A diverse and willing workforce you may not have heard about

Posted On: 16 October 2019

In May 2017, the Supreme Court struck down a 20 year old ban preventing people seeking asylum from legally working in Ireland. The judgment was enormously important, not only because it should significantly improve the lives of people trapped in Direct Provision, but because it says something fundamental about the importance and value our highest court places on person being able to seek employment.

As of June 2019, over 2500 people were granted a work permit under this new permission, but less than half were successful in securing employment. One reason being that employers are either not aware of this new development, or are wary as the work permit itself looks different to permits they are used to dealing with.

We would like reassure people that this is a legal right and we are happy to discuss how it works with any prospective employers or companies that may be recruiting.

The community we work with come from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds and bring with them a range of languages and skills that many sectors need. What they have in common is a desire to live independent lives, to be able to provide for themselves and their families and to start contributing to Irish life – employment being key not only to this but to integration as a whole and to long-term social cohesion. Being able to work empowers people to live independently of state supports and in the mid to long-term move out of the Direct Provision system and into the community.

So how does this new right work and who is entitled to it? People who have been in the asylum process for nine months who have not been granted a decision are entitled to apply to the Department of Justice for a work permit. Once this is issued the person can renew their right to work every six months until their asylum application has concluded. When a person is granted their status to remain in Ireland they are automatically entitled to work here.

Through partnerships with employers and companies we have had a number of successful placements for people we work with. The strength in many of these partnerships has been the recognition by the employer that there is an untapped community of people with a lot to offer industries and enterprises. In addition, several people we worked with moved on to set up their own businesses, in turn becoming employers.

We would encourage companies to be reflective of the increasingly diverse Ireland that they now operate in, and to be open to offering people new to Ireland a chance to prove their ability. It is no easy feat to restart your life in a new country, yet every day that is what a refugee does. They build themselves back up again. Employers can play a role in this by creating opportunity and striving for inclusive work environments.

Rory O’Neill, Integration Manager with the Irish Refugee Council