Asylum seekers continue to face barriers to employment three years after Supreme Court ruling

Nick Henderson
Nick Henderson

Asylum seekers continue to face major barriers to entering employment more than three years after a landmark Supreme Court ruling on the right to work, the Irish Refugee Council has said.

The absolute prohibition on employment for asylum seekers was found to be unconstitutional by Ireland’s top court at the end of May 2017. A new regime allowing for asylum seekers to access the labour market was introduced the following summer.

However, critics have said that asylum seekers still face major barriers to entering employment, including the fact that they cannot obtain a driver license and have serious difficulties in opening a bank account.

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, 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.”

In particular, the IRC says this can be achieved 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, increasing the permit’s duration from 6 to 12 months and formalising the permission to give increased certainty to employers;
  • Removing the barriers to accessing a bank account and driver licence;
  • Removing the 50:50 employee nationality rule.

Mr Henderson added: “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.”

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