UN welcomes move to grant asylum seekers right to work

The Supreme Court recently ruled that the bar on asylum seekers working was unconstitutional

UN welcomes move to grant asylum seekers right to work

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

The UN refugee agency has welcomed the decision to grant asylum seekers access to the Irish workforce.

The new directive announced by the Minister for Justice this afternoon will come into force this week.

It follows the Supreme Court ruling that the ban preventing asylum seekers from working was unconstitutional.

The directive will give asylum seekers the right to work in most sectors of the economy once they have been waiting for a decision on their application for nine months or more.

 Announcing the directive this afternoon, Minister Flanagan said: “Asylum seekers will have access to additional means to provide for themselves and their families outside of the State’s directly provided services and supports and will be in a better position to play a fuller role in Irish society”

It currently takes an average of 19 months to get an asylum application interview and UNHCR has warned that as of May this year over 720 people have been waiting three years or more for a decision on their refugee status.

"Offering asylum-seekers access to the labour market will significantly improve the integration prospects of people waiting long periods for decisions on their applications" said Maria Hennessy, assistant Protection Officer with UNHCR.”

“Long waiting periods for a decision combined with not being allowed to work can lead to dependency, isolation and disempowerment among those in need of protection."

The refugee agency cautioned that overall application processing times remain far too Ireland.

"The earlier people can work the better their chances of integration in the long term,” said Ms Hennessy.

“We welcome today's decision by the Minister of Justice and Equality, and his commitment to resolving long waiting times in the protection process."

Anyone applying for refugee status in Ireland will continue to be entered into the Direct Provision system for the first nine months of their application.

Residents of the system 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.

According to the latest Reception and Integration Agency report, there were 5,288 people living in Direct Provision in Ireland in May.

At the end of last year, over a quarter of those were children – however the report indicates that age breakdowns are currently unavailable due to “data reconciliation.”

UNHCR said the number of people awaiting a decision jumped by over 1,000 last year, despite the introduction of a new application system.

EU law requires decisions on applications to be made as soon as possible - and in normal circumstances within six months.