Ban preventing asylum seekers from working formally ruled unconstitutional

Human rights groups have voiced concerns over the Government's proposals on the issue

Ban preventing asylum seekers from working formally ruled unconstitutional

Photo: Laura Hutton/

Human rights groups have welcomed the formal Supreme Court declaration that the ban preventing asylum seekers from working is unconstitutional.

The court originally made the ruling “in principle” last May, however it put off the formal decision to allow the State to put measures in place to address the situation.

In November, the State asked for more time – however the Court said it would make the formal declaration on February 9th regardless of what progress had been made.

The court officially confirmed the ruling this morning.

EU norms

The Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said he aims to bring Ireland in line with ‘EU norms’ by opting into EU Reception Conditions Directive – which addresses the right to work.

The State now has four months to fully opt into the directive and draw up its own work-permit system for asylum seekers.

However, human rights groups have voiced concern over the Government’s plans.

Interim measures

Under the interim measures, asylum seekers are only be able to attain a work permit by securing a job with a starting salary of €30,000.

The permit itself costs between €500 and €1000.

Asylum seekers only become eligible after they have been living under Direct Provision in Ireland for at least nine months.

They are also excluded from working in 60 different sectors including hospitality, construction and healthcare.

Effectively, the system means only the most highly qualified asylum seekers are eligible.


In a statement released afterwards, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) warned that any reforms of the immigration system must be “inclusive and universal” adding that the Government must ensure it “does not create conditions likely to give rise to exploitation.”

It said it would be seeking a meeting with the Minister for Justice to discuss proposals for how the new system might work.

It is also seeking an early date to address the Oireachtas Justice committee on the matter.

Right to work

Image: Irish Refugee Council

IHREC chief commissioner Emily Logan said the commission aims to work with the Government to “ensure an effective and enduring right to work under the Constitution is put in place.”

“The commission welcomes this final ruling, and is clear that the threat to human dignity posed by being deprived of any opportunity to engage in employment is not abstract or theoretical for people in direct provision,” she said.

“The right to work is essential for realising other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity.” 

Direct provision

Asylum seekers are not allowed to seek employment and instead are provided with a weekly allowance of €21.60 per week as well as full-board accommodation.

Conditions are often bleak and overcrowded with families living in cramped spaces, with few facilities to cook or provide for themselves.

According to the latest Reception and Integration Agency report, there were 5,344 people living in Direct Provision in Ireland in December.

Over a quarter of those (1,420) were under the age of 17.