Government to ‘embrace’ asylum seekers ruling, says Flanagan
Opposition says clarity needed on planned work permit scheme for asylum seekers
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said a Supreme Court ruling striking out a total ban on work for asylum seekers marked “an important day” and the ruling would be “embraced” by the Government.
The Supreme Court formally struck down as unconstitutionalthe absolute ban preventing asylum seekers from working in the State on Friday.
The five judge court unanimously ruled in May last year, in a judgment delivered by Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, that the absolute ban was unconstitutional “in principle” but it deferred making a formal declaration for six months to allow the legislature address the situation.
“The Government has embraced the findings of the Supreme Court and has committed to opting-in to the EU recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013 which will align our position with EU norms and standards,” Mr Flanagan said.
Until Ireland’s application to opt into the EU Directive is complete, asylum seekers can apply for work under the existing Employment Permits Act 2003.
Asylum seekers can apply for a six-to-12-month work permit, which costs between €500 to €1,000. Applicants have to secure a job with a minimum salary of €30,000 a year to qualify, and cannot work in 60 different sectors which include hospitality, healthcare, social work, construction, and child care.
Mr Flanagan said these were “strictly temporary” measures until the EU Directive comes into force and a new scheme is set up specifically for asylum seekers, which he estimated would be in place by June.
The scope of the scheme is currently being considered within the Department of Justice, to determine what sectors asylum seekers will be permitted to seek work in. The internal group examining the issue will take into account the “skills profile of the current qualifying cohort and any labour market gaps,” Mr Flanagan said.
Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on immigration Fiona O’Loughlin TD said the current employment options open to asylum seekers following the ruling were “highly unsatisfactory.”
Ms O’Loughlin said the Government were “given ample opportunity to introduce legislation before the current provisions were declared unconstitutional”.
Labour Senator and former junior minister in the Department of Justice Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the interim restrictions on employment were “disgraceful,” and “an effort to circumvent and set aside the judgement.”
He added asylum seekers needed clarity from Mr Flanagan if the scheme planned under the Directive “will remain as restrictive as those he has implemented from today.”
Emily Logan, head of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), said she would be engaging with the Government “to ensure an effective and enduring right to work under the Constitution is put in place” for asylum seekers.