Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said:

 “On the three-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on the right to work for protection applicants (N.H.V -v- Minister for Justice & Equality and ors), Justice O’Donnell’s statement that work is connected to the dignity and freedom of the individual is more relevant than ever.”

“Allowing people in the protection process to work benefits all. An example of this is the important work done by people in the protection process, particularly in nursing homes, during the pandemic.”

“Three years on from the Supreme Court’s decision, and nearly two years on from the initial introduction of the right to work, barriers to entering employment continue exist: people in the protection process cannot obtain a driver licence and have serious difficulties in opening a bank account. We call on the next government to expand this right for people in the protection process. This can be done by:  

  • Extending the automatic right to work to all people in the international protection process.
  • Reducing the time limit a new protection applicant must wait before being automatically able to work from 9 months to 0 months, or a maximum of 3 months.
  • If a permit style system continues, the permit’s duration should be increased from 6 to 12 months and the permission should be formalised to give increased certainty to employers.
  • Remove the barriers to accessing a bank account and driver licence.
  • Remove the 50:50 employee nationality rule.”

“The Reception Conditions Directive, which Ireland has transposed in to law, guarantees the right of effective access to the labour market.  We believe this means that Ireland has an ongoing obligation to identify and remove barriers preventing access to employment.



Notes to editor:

  • Contact: Nick Henderson, [email protected] 0858585559
  • Permission to access the labour market figures as of November 2019:[1]

Applications for permission to access the labour market since 30.06.2018


Applications refused since 30.06.2018


Applications granted since 30.06.2018


Number of people who have commenced employment or self-employment (based on employer return declaration forms)


 NH.V -v- Minister for Justice & Equality and ors found that the lack of time limit on the asylum process in combination with the absolute prohibition on seeking employment that previously existed was contrary to the constitutional right to seek employment

  • Section 11 of S.I. No. 230/2018 - European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018 sets out the current system for work for protection applicants
  • Learn about the Irish Refugee Council’s employment work here

[1] Source: Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 20 November 2019