Asylum seekers on right to work: ‘Now I can be the person I want to be’
Ibrahim Sorie Kabba has recieved a work permit but other difficulties remain
Asylum-seeker Ibrahim Sorie Kabba has sent out numerous job applications since he received his new work permit last month. Fluent in English and French, he is hoping to find a job in customer service.
Ibrahim Sorie Kabba has sent out numerous job applications since he received his new work permit last month. Fluent in English and French, he is hoping to find a job in customer service.
However, he has already encountered a number of barriers which have made it difficult for him to enter the Irish labour market. Shortly after the new job scheme was introduced Kabba gathered together his documentation and went into Limerick city to open a bank account.
“When you open a bank account they need a driving licence or a passport. Asylum seekers are not allowed to drive here and the Department of Justice took my passport from me when I arrived. They gave me a photocopy but left me with no identity. All the banks on Limerick’s main street declined me. Even when my work permit arrived they continued to say no. It took me a month to find a bank where I could open an account.”
Kabba has also found that many employers doubt the authenticity of the work permits which are printed on a sheet of paper with a watermark. “Employers are asking what kind of stamp it is, they don’t understand. People are surprised when they see it and say ‘we’ll get back to you’. One employer was examining my photo on the paper to see if it was superimposed.”
“Technically most organisations do not recognise my qualifications from home but given that I can speak two languages and I like to interact with people I thought I would be comfortable in customer service.”
Kabba says the Government needs to distribute work permit cards rather than pieces of paper to ensure employers recognise the document.
Before leaving his home in Sierra Leone Kabba ran an organisation which offered training and skills to members of the country’s marginalised LGBT community. He hopes to work in a similar area in the future but for now just wants to find a job so he can get out of the Knockalisheen Accommodation Centre where he lives during the day.
Kabba says that once he finds a job he can begin rebuilding his life. “Now I can be the person I want to be. I can get some of my confidence back. It’s a relief that we can finally do something. I came from a place where I was used to being busy and helping people and then I came here as an asylum seeker and I was left helpless. Now that I have the right to work I can find something to keep my mind busy and work within this society.”
Rosemary* from Zimbabwe is also looking forward to securing a job with her new permit. Like Kabba, she has sent out numerous applications but has yet to receive a response. She says most employers request that applicants have experience working in Ireland.
“That’s a big challenge for us because we haven’t worked in Ireland before,” says Rosemary, who hopes her recent voluntary work will help her find employment. She is applying for jobs in housekeeping or in a factory but says she doesn’t mind where she works. “I just want to have a job so I have something to do with my time. Most people in here spend the whole day sitting and doing nothing and become depressed.”
Rosemary hopes to one day qualify as a social worker. “I’d like to help people in the situation I’m in. I’d really like to work with young asylum seekers because I know what it’s like, I’ve been through it.”
She is applying for work in Dublin and Portlaoise, the two hubs she can access using public transport. Asked if she feels disheartened by the lack of responses to her applications, Rosemary says she’ll keep on trying. “I just need to keep on believing something will come up.”
*Only her first name has been used to protect her identity