Rules for jobless migrants eased

 

Migrant workers who lose their job will be allowed to stay in the country longer to seek further employment, under new rules announced today.

Up until now migrant workers with work permits from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the EU, Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, who were made redundant had only three months to find alternative employment or leave the country.

However, under the changes announced today by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, migrant workers who have held an employment permit for less than five years will now be able to stay for up to six months after losing their jobs.

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

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

Speaking this afternoon, the Minister said there was a need to protect those who had lost their jobs.

“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," said Mr Ahern.

“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 several years, when they become redundant. 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,” he added.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) welcomed today's announcement saying that the Government "had done the right thing" in allowing unemployed workers more time to find jobs.

“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. These changes give migrant workers greater equality and greater opportunity to support their families and to contribute to Irish society," said Bill Abom, deputy director of the MRCI.

However, Fine Gael was dismissive of the changes to the immigration rules.

The party's spokesman on immigration and integration, Denis Naughten, said the easing of the rules was a case of "wallpapering over the massive cracks in a misguided policy approach".

“The Government’s announcement today is just another failure on the part of Fianna Fáil to implement a coherent immigration policy in what can only be described as a chaotic system," he said.