23 January 2018 - On the 17th January the Government released information about their proposal for the right to work for people in the asylum process. The EU Reception Conditions Directive, which they plan to opt into, requires that a member state provides people seeking asylum ‘effective access’ to the labour market. From the information released by Government, this test will not be met and the right to work threatens to be an illusion for many.

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, said,

“Channelling access to this right via the Employment Permit process is inappropriate and restrictive, even if only for the transitional phase until when the Directive is finally transposed in to Irish law. Many professions, including shop assistants, secretaries, types of chef, and construction workers are excluded. Requiring a person to seek employment that has a minimum salary of €30,000 is a significant barrier and the Employment Permit application fee of €500-1,000 must also be waived.”

Minister Charlie Flanagan stated to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality that, when the Directive is transposed, access to the labour market will be on more generous terms than that permitted under the Employment Permit process and via an ‘immigration permission’. Of concern is his subsequent statement that this would still include a restriction to certain professions. More detail is required on this as soon as possible. It is also not clear why two separate phases are necessary for the implementation of this right, particularly when the Government have known of the Supreme Court’s decision since May 2017.

Henderson went on to say,

“We are concerned about when people will be able to access this right. As previously stated by us, waiting times in asylum status determination in Ireland are at crisis point. Thousands of people have already waited for more than a year for an initial decision. The right to work should be retrospective and immediately available to people in this position.”

“It is very discouraging to still hear concerns about the right to work being a ‘pull factor’. Various studies clearly show no long-term correlation between labour market access and destination choice for protection applicants. As Ireland is already significantly out of step with other Member States of the EU, it is misleading to state that providing a right to work will lead to an increase in protection applications.”

The Irish Refugee Council reiterate their previous recommendations to Government that, in order for the right to work to be truly effective, access to the labour market must be as unrestricted as possible. People should be allowed to work if they have waited six months for a decision; they should be free to work in any sector or be self-employed and this right should apply to both new applicants and also those to whom the transitional provisions of the International Protection Act 2015 apply.”

- ENDS -

Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, 0858585510

Notes for editor:

The Irish Refugee Council policy paper on the right to work, published in July 2017, is available here.

Minister Charlie Flanagan’s presentation to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality is available here.

The ‘Reception Conditions Directive’ is Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast).

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s ‘Ineligible Categories of Employment for Employment Permits’ applies to people seeking an Employment Permit.

The Supreme Court has stated that it will make a formal declaration on 9 February that the absolute ban preventing asylum seekers working here is unconstitutional.

The University of Sheffield has conducted research in to whether access to the labour market acts as a pull factor for asylum seekers.

As of November 2017, 4920 people were living in Direct Provision. The mean length of stay in Direct Provision is 24 months. The Direct Provision estate had only 432 vacancies across 33 centres. See the Reception and Integration Agency’s November 2017 statistics.

The International Protection Act 2015 commenced on the 31 December 2016.