Ireland only EU state which bans asylum seekers from working

State has consistently refused to sign up to EU laws on asylum standards

A protest in Dublin last April by asylum seekers, refugees and supporters as part of a national day of action to end direct provision for asylum seekers. Photograph: David Sleator

A protest in Dublin last April by asylum seekers, refugees and supporters as part of a national day of action to end direct provision for asylum seekers. Photograph: David Sleator

Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 01:00


Ireland has been criticised for not allowing asylum seekers to work and having one of the lowest rates of granting refugee status in the European Union.

Ireland has consistently opted out of EU laws raising minimum standards for people seeking protection, according to Ana López Fontal of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. “In terms of how systems treat refugees, I wouldn’t say Ireland rates very highly,” she said.

A recent report by the council shows Ireland has opted out of EU directives that would provide minimum standards in the housing of asylum seekers and how their applications are processed. It has signed up to law reforms that allow asylum seekers to be finger-printed for the purpose of tracking so people do not travel between EU states for asylum.

Ireland is alone in the EU in not allowing asylum seekers to work pending the outcome of their cases. In the UK, Malta and Bulgaria, asylum seekers may work a year after their application has been lodged; in Poland, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium this wait is six months. In Austria, they must wait three months and in Sweden people can work the day after their application is lodged.