"Staying in Direct Provision and not being allowed to work had a huge impact on my life. Even now, after being out of Direct Provision for a year, I feel like the ghost of not being allowed to work is still entangling my life. Whenever I apply for a job, the response I get is ‘we are looking for someone who has at least 3 years experience’. Where do I get the experience if I haven't been allowed to work for all the years I've been in Ireland?”

On 30 May 2017 the Supreme Court in N.v.H -v- Minister for Justice & Equality and ors [2017] IESC 35 (30 May 2017) considered the indefinite prohibition on the right of a person to work while in the asylum process, contained in the Refugee Act 1996 (and replicated in the International Protection Act 2015). The applicant had spent more than eight years in the asylum procedure and had experienced depression and frustration due to not being able to work. The Supreme Court held that work is connected to the dignity and freedom of individuals and that the complete ban was not justified and contrary to the constitutional right to seek employment. The Court’s final order is postponed for six months to allow the Government to respond. This policy paper sets out a number of recommendations to inform their response.

In summary the Irish Refugee Council recommended:
  • Applicants who have not received a first instance recommendation within six months of the date of their application to the International Protection Office (IPO) be given the right to work.
  • Applicants to whom the transitional provisions of the International Protection Act 2015 apply, many of whom will have already waited for a total of six months for a final first instance decision under the single procedure, should also be given the right to work. 
  • Permission to work should automatically commence upon the passing of six months, and not be subject to a further application process. 
  • No restrictions or conditions should be placed on which professions or labour market sectors a person eligible applicant can pursue. 
  • No reductions be made to a person’s Direct Provision allowance on account of being given permission to work.

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