Time period for immigrants to find work extended

 

THE PERIOD of time allowed to migrant workers to find new employment after they have been made redundant has been extended by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.

Certain migrant workers who have lived in the State for under five years and possess a valid work permit are to be given six months to find a new job if they are made redundant, under the new regulations announced yesterday.

Previously, migrant workers from outside the European Economic Area who were made redundant had only three months to find alternative employment or leave the country. The EEA comprises the EU, Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. Non-EEA permit holders comprise 1.5 per cent of the labour force or some 30,000 people.

Mr Ahern said the decision was about protecting jobs and giving migrant workers who had abided by employment laws a chance to stay in the country.

“The Government is determined to do all in its power to tackle the rise in numbers of people finding themselves without work or with reduced working time as a result of the global recession,” he said.

“Our approach in tackling the issue is multi-layered and centres on protecting employment across the economy, retraining those without work and assisting job seekers looking for work.”

In addition, non-EEA migrant workers who have worked in Ireland for five years under the work permit system will be granted permission to live and work without the need to apply for another work permit.

“Now that we are in more difficult economic times, we cannot simply discard law-abiding migrant workers who have been living and working legally in Ireland for years when they become redundant,” Mr Ahern said.

“They have made a contribution to Ireland’s economy and society and we need to give them some breathing space to get back to work.”

The Department of Justice said the permissions would run for one year initially and are capable of renewal. The department said it is not an unconditional permit and that the holders are expected to work and to support themselves and any dependents.

The easing of immigration rules comes after the Government was heavily criticised earlier this year for introducing legislation which stated that unemployed migrant workers could only apply for jobs which had been advertised by Fás for at least eight weeks.

The changes were welcomed by the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland which said it was a “significant victory” following a hard fought campaign to change the unjust policies introduced by the Government earlier this year.

“These changes will make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of non-EEA migrant workers who have committed themselves to Ireland, but whose lives have been hanging in the balance,” MCRI deputy director Bill Abom said. The Immigrant Council of Ireland said it was a welcome acknowledgement that migrant workers have contributed to Irish life and the economy for a significant period of time.

“This is hugely welcome news for people who have applied for long-term residence,” ICI senior solicitor Catherine Cosgrave said.

However, Fine Gael immigration spokesman Denis Naughten said the plan was an attempt to wallpaper over massive cracks in misguided policies.

“In this economic climate it is difficult for anyone to find employment, but the Government recently added an insurmountable hurdle with changes made to the work permit rules for non-EU migrants,” he said.

“Today, they compounded it and have resigned some redundant non-EU migrants to the dole for up to an additional three months, which could cost the State millions.”

'We're not just workers - we are making our life here'

A BELARUSIAN woman who has lived in Ireland for six years has welcomed the decision to allow migrant workers residing here for more than five years to seek a job without a work permit.

Alena Shauchuk (30), from Kimmage, said she was “absolutely delighted” with the Department of Justice’s decision, which she believes could help scores of people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to settle in Ireland.

“It actually means a lot to me,” she said. “I’m six and a half years here and all my life is in Ireland. I feel integrated here. It will mean we won’t wake up tomorrow and wonder what is going to happen. It means I can go out and look for a job and not wonder what am I going to do about my permit.”

Ms Shauchuk, who is from Minsk where she completed a BA in languages, said regulations introduced in June, requiring employers to double the time for which a vacancy was advertised to eight weeks before hiring a non-EEA candidate, made it very difficult for migrants to find work.

Ms Shauchuk was made redundant 10 days after the regulations were introduced and became involved in a Migrant Rights Council of Ireland campaign to change the policy.

She lobbied her local TD, Sean Ardagh of Fianna Fáil, and hopes the Government will take further steps to help non-EEA workers.

“This means a lot. We’re not just part of the labour force; we are making our life here.”