Call to grant work rights to new asylum seekers

Recommendation that application for asylum be dealt with not later than six months

Consensus between civil servants and campaign groups means there will be few areas of contention when the proposal is discussed by the Cabinet next week. Photograph: The Irish Times

Consensus between civil servants and campaign groups means there will be few areas of contention when the proposal is discussed by the Cabinet next week. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

New asylum seekers will have the right to work after nine months of seeking refugee status, a Government working group has recommended.

The proposal is one of more than 40 contained in a 360- page report into the direct provision and wider protection system for asylum seekers.

At present, Ireland is one of just two EU member states with a blanket working ban on all asylum seekers.

Under the working group’s proposal, the right to work would come into force as soon as a new streamlined asylum claims system is in place.

The single applications procedure, which Government Ministers have pledged to introduce later this year, will aim to process asylum claims within six to nine months.

Another key proposal may lead to residency for up to 3,800 asylum seekers who have spent five years waiting for their claims to be dealt with by Irish authorities.

The working group has proposed that anyone with a claim for asylum or other form of status, such as subsidiary protection, should have their application dealt with within six months.

Automatic leave

Anyone whose applications are not dealt with during this time-frame would automatically be granted leave to remain in the State.

New relaxed criteria would apply to these cases. Resources for decision-making bodies, such as the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal - would be boosted.

While about 1,600 people living in direct provision centres for more than five years could benefit from this move, it could also apply to a further 2,000-plus asylum seekers living outside these settings.

Other key recommendations in the report include:

Increasing the weekly allowances paid to asylum seekers from €19.10 for adults to €38.74; and from €9.60 for children to €29.80.

Giving young asylum seekers, who have been resident here for five years, the same access to third-level education as Irish students. Asylum-seeking students are currently treated as international students and face prohibitive fees.

Extending the right of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children to investigate decisions related to asylum seekers and the direct provision system for the first time.

The recommendations are likely to have a far-reaching impact on the lives of more than 4,000 people in the direct provision system and a further 4,000 asylum seekers living in the wider community.

NGOs in group The 10-member working group, chaired by Mr Justice Bryan MacMahon, included representatives from Government departments and non- governmental organisations.

The group submitted its report to Government on Tuesday and it is due to be published on Tuesday next.

Sources say the consensus between civil servants and campaign groups means it is likely there will be few areas of contention when it is discussed by the Cabinet next week.

Some of the group’s deliberations and terms of reference proved controversial, however. The Irish Refugee Council resigned from the group on the basis that it was not consulted about key legislative proposals.

Reuben Hambackachere, a member of a core group of asylum-seekers and refugees involved in the group’s work, also stood down.