Campaigners warn “devil is in the detail” on plan to allow asylum seekers to work

The Minister for Justice is to bring proposals to Cabinet next week

Campaigners warn “devil is in the detail” on plan to allow asylum seekers to work

Protestors march against Direct Provision in Dublin, 12-11-2016. Image: Sam Boal / RollingNews

The Irish Refugee Council has warned that the “devil is in the detail” when it comes to the Government’s plans to allow asylum seekers to work.

The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan recently announced that the law would be changed in line with a Supreme Court ruling which found the ban unconstitutional.

Reports in The Irish Times this morning indicate the changes to the law will be approved by ministers at Cabinet next week.

Fundamental right

Irish Refugee Council (IRC) chief executive Nick Henderson told Newstalk that the right to work forms a “crucial” part of everyday life:

“It is fundamental,” he said. “It is really such an important process and part of somebody’s life.”

“For people who have skills and resources and expertise to offer, they currently cannot engage in the workforce.

"They are languishing in direct provision centres waiting to contribute."

He said allowing them to work would mean that "they can begin to integrate and also that their skills don’t regress - that is a big thing that we see when we work with people."

“Also there is a selfish argument for the Irish State to consider which is that if we give people the right to work, they can start to contribute back to Irish society through tax,” he said.

Direct provision

Asylum seekers in Ireland enter the Direct Provision system until a decision is made on their refugee status.

People living in the system are provided with €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.

Right to work

Under the new proposals asylum seekers would be provided with renewable six-month working permits – however the permits will be subject to restrictions.

They will only be available to people in the system for nine months or longer and access to work will only be allowed in “certain but restricted sectors of employment.”

Anyone who appeals a decision on their refugee status would lose their right to work.

It remains unclear if the changes will be introduced retrospectively – meaning people who have already spent time in the Direct Provision system may have to wait a further nine months before entering the employment market.

"Very concerned"

Mr Henderson said campaigners would be “very concerned” if the changes are introduced as reported this morning.

“In and of itself it is good that the right to work is being given to people but we would have concerns that nine months is too long for somebody to wait,” he said.

“Also if it is restricted to particular professions then it becomes an artificial and difficult to access.

“So let’s see what happens next week and let’s look at the detail but we would have some concerns over what has been announced today.”


Should Minister Flanagan’s proposals be accepted by Cabinet, the plan will have to be approved by the Supreme Court at the end of November. 

According to the Reception and Integration Agency monthly report for September 2017 there are currently 5,036 people living in direct Provision in Ireland.

Approximately one quarter of those (1298) are under the age of 17 – while the vast majority of the children (1098) are under the age of 12.