Immigrant rights organisations say ruling is ‘unqualified good news’

Immigrant Council says work ban impacts on self-esteem, mental health and on children

A ruling by the Supreme Court that a ban on asylum seekers working is unconstitutional has been hailed as "unqualified good news" by immigrant rights organisations.

On Tuesday the seven-judge court ruled unanimously in favour of a Burmese man who appealed against the blanket ban which precluded him from working during the eight years he spent in the direct provision system. The man in question has since been granted refugee status.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission welcomed the ruling, and said the test case raised important issues pertinent to Ireland’s asylum seeker population.

"I welcome today's ruling and strongly recommend, as stated previously in our 2014 policy statement on direct provision, that strong consideration be given to allowing direct provision residents to work, and that direct provision residents over the age of 18 receive education and training in preparation for seeking employment once they leave the system," said chief commissioner Emily Logan.


Brian Killoran of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said Ireland was one of only two EU countries, the other being Lithuania, which has a complete prohibition on asylum seekers finding employment.


“From working with asylum seekers over the years we know the impact of the work ban goes much further than simply being denied the right to get a job,” he said, describing the ruling as “unqualified good news”.

“It affects self-esteem, mental health, their children, limits them to a life lived in poverty and affects their opportunity to integrate into Irish society,” said Mr Killoran.

The Immigrant Council has indicated that its preference is for asylum seekers to be granted the right to work at six months, which is commensurate with the timescale for deciding on asylum applications.

The Irish Immigrant Support Centre NASC also welcomed a "potentially landmark ruling", and its chief executive Fiona Finn said it eagerly awaited the Government's response to the principle laid down by the court.

“Once again it is down to the courts to force the State to live up to its constitutional and human rights obligations.

Necessary actions

“We hope the State will act quickly now in response to the judgment, and take the necessary actions to remove the absolute ban on employment for asylum seekers and ensure the dignity and autonomy of people seeking asylum,” she said.

The Supreme Court has adjourned the matter for six months to allow the Government to consider what legislative changes may need to be made in order to respond to the finding.