Asylum seekers unlikely to be allowed to work, says Fitzgerald

Direct provision system criticised for imposing isolation, boredom and lack of control


Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has signalled that any revision of Ireland’s immigration laws would be unlikely to result in asylum seekers being allowed to work here as such an arrangement would be contrary to international norms.

Ms Fitzgerald said she intended to approach the issue of direct provision - where an asylum seeker can spend up to nine years waiting for a decision on their application - through a single procedure, outside of broader immigration legislation.

She conceded that living on €19 a week, the sum given to adults in “reception centres”, was a “very difficult system for people” but said allowing them to work was a complex question.

“In terms of work, countries take a different approach to that. But generally speaking it is quite strict in relation to asylum seekers,” she said on the Tonight with Vincent Browne programme on TV3 last night.

“It is a very complex issue to move towards work for asylum seekers. I am prepared to examine the issue but if you look at international practice, it does not go in that direction generally speaking for asylum seekers.”

Her comments follow those of her recently appointed Minister of State Aodhán Ó Riordáin who said in an interview with the Irish Times that reform in the area was a priority.

Mr Ó Riordáin described the issue a major concern and in need of radical reform.

The direct provision system of care for asylum seekers has been criticised for imposing isolation, boredom and a lack of control over meals for those placed in centres.

Ms Fitzgerald said last year 1,000 asylum seekers arrived here, compared to about 80,000 immigrants who came legally from outside the EU.

“We have a huge obligation to those people,” she said.

“So in terms of the right to work you have to take into account your own economic circumstances; you have to say what’s right for our own country.”