Ministers Flanagan and Stanton announce enhanced access to the labour market for asylum seekers
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The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, and the Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration, and Integration, David Stanton TD, have announced new measures providing for enhanced access to the labour market for qualified protection applicants in Ireland with the entry into force of the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive.
Minister Flanagan said:
"I am delighted that the government has approved a broad and generous access to the labour market for qualified applicants amongst a number of other important reforms in a range of areas covered by the Directive including reception conditions for applicants, improved identification of vulnerability and children’s rights. These measures are a further step on the road we have pursued in recent years to significantly reform our protection process. Effective access to the labour market will help to alleviate social and economic exclusion for applicants and avoid long-term dependency on the State. 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 while their claim for protection is being determined. Ireland is one of the few EU Member States to allow eligible asylum seekers to also engage in self-employment."
In May 2017, the Supreme Court found that an absolute ban on the right to seek employment for asylum seekers, where there was no time limit in the decision making process, was unconstitutional. The government availed of this opportunity to broaden the scope of reform required and committed Ireland, with the approval of the Oireachtas, to opting-in to the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive 2013, aligning our position with EU norms and standards. The Directive lays down the standards for the reception of international protection applicants while their application is being determined.
Under the Directive, asylum seekers will have access to the labour market nine months from the date when their protection application was lodged, if they have yet to receive a first instance recommendation from the International Protection Office, and if they have cooperated with the process.
Eligible applicants may apply to the Minister for Justice and Equality for a labour market permission, which covers both employment and self-employment. The Labour Market Access Unit (LMAU) of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), on behalf of the Minister, will process applications. The permission will be granted to eligible applicants for six months and will be renewable until there is a final decision on their protection application. Eligible applicants will have access to all sectors of employment, with the exception of the Civil and Public Service, An Garda Síochána, and the Irish Defence Forces.
Minister of State Stanton welcomed the government’s decision to provide a meaningful access for qualified applicants to the labour market, saying:
"This will promote the integration into Irish society of asylum seekers and their families. It gives testimony to the government’s clear commitment in January that the opt-in process would be completed in June, which would allow us to bring in new arrangements for those who come to our shores to claim international protection beyond the existing arrangements for third country nationals under the employment permits regime. Ireland has a range of immigration pathways for third country nationals who wish to work here, but this new policy is designed specifically for qualified international protection applicants. The long-term dependency on the system of directly provided State services is also radically addressed in this broad access. It will also assist those who are successful in their applications and who are already working, to integrate fully into society once their status is determined and in the interim it will allow those with means to move out of State provided accommodation and provide for themselves from their own resources, should they wish to do so."
In addition to labour market access, the Directive also includes important provisions in relation to health, education, children’s rights, and material reception conditions for applicants, which include housing, food, clothing and a daily expense allowance. These other benefits will apply to all applicants in the protection process regardless of when they made their application.
The Directive will bring the State into line with standards across the EU Member States for reception conditions for international protection applicants, including standards in accommodation centres. This continues the recent and ongoing positive work carried out to enhance living arrangements for applicants and their families, and to further provide a wide range of supports and services to asylum seekers. Participation in the Directive is another important step in the reform of our international protection and reception systems.
An information campaign is being launched to ensure that applicants, employers, trade unions, NGOs and all other relevant bodies are fully informed of the labour market access and eligibility arrangements that will apply. Full details and an application form will also be available on the INIS website.