Government to lift some restrictions facing asylum-seekers looking for work

Supreme Court ruled a year ago ban on asylum-seekers accessing work was unconstitutional

Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan: he may be in charge of granting work permits

Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan: he may be in charge of granting work permits

 

The Government is to lift some of the restrictions facing asylum-seekers seeking work, and allow for greater access to social welfare payments and alternative accommodation.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan is to seek Cabinet approval on Tuesday to address some of the difficulties faced by asylum-seekers in availing of employment, including abolishing fees they pay in accessing work permits.

The developments come a year after the Supreme Court ruled the ban on asylum-seekers accessing work was unconstitutional. However, no work permits have been granted since the ruling due to the restrictions enforced.

Asylum-seekers living in direct provision currently have a weekly allowance of €21.60

Under the current scheme applicants must apply for an employment permit from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation under the Employment Permits Act 2003. The scheme also requires that they pay between €500 to €1,000 for a six- to 12-month employment permit.

Asylum-seekers living in direct provision currently have a weekly allowance of €21.60, and can buy food using a recently-introduced points system.

According to the rules, they must secure a job that pays a starting salary of at least €30,000 per year, and may not work in any of 60 different sectors, including in hospitality, food, healthcare, social work, childcare, marketing, administration, textiles, printing, housekeeping and construction.

It is understood Mr Flanagan will relax aspects of this system, including broader access to occupations and easier access to work permits. The Minister for Justice will also be in charge of granting such permits.

The Government will also agree those who are in work should qualify for social welfare payments when they make the appropriate contributions, and that those in direct provision should qualify for “alternative mainstream accommodation”.

The changes will be considered by Cabinet on Tuesday, and will be announced by Mr Flanagan on Wednesday.

The new scheme, which will remain in force until a full work-permit system is drawn up for asylum-seekers, has been strongly criticised by advocates

The Irish Times understands a significant number of Government departments, including the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation; the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; the Department of Health; the Department of Education; and the Attorney General’s office, have all offered observations to the proposals by Mr Flanagan.

Refugee status

Last year the Supreme Court heard a case from a Burmese man who had spent eight years in direct provision before getting refugee status. He won his appeal over laws preventing him working in Ireland before his status was decided.

The seven-judge court unanimously agreed the absolute ban was “in principle” unconstitutional, but adjourned making any formal orders for six months to allow the legislature to consider how to address the situation.

The new scheme, which will remain in force until a full work-permit system is drawn up for asylum-seekers, has been strongly criticised by advocates.

Figures show 5,096 people were living in direct provision in December 2017.

Many have been in the system awaiting a decision on their future for years.

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