More than 500 asylum seekers have been granted work permits

System introduced by the Government less than six weeks ago lifts ban preventing many asylum seekers from taking up jobs

The Department of Justice estimates that some 3,000 of the more than 5,300 people in the direct provision system will benefit from the work permit changes. Photograph: Rory O’Neill

The Department of Justice estimates that some 3,000 of the more than 5,300 people in the direct provision system will benefit from the work permit changes. Photograph: Rory O’Neill

 

More than 500 asylum seekers, some 10 per cent of the total number of people living in direct provision, have been granted work permits under a system introduced by the Government less than six weeks ago.

Figures released by the Department of Justice to The Irish Times show that 560 asylum seekers have been granted the right to work in recent weeks.

A total of 326 asylum seekers have had their applications declined on the basis that they did not meet eligibility criteria.

Changes to laws governing the employment of people living in the direct provision system, which effectively lifted a ban preventing many from taking up jobs, were announced by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan at the end of June, and came into force on July 1st.

The measures included the abolition of a €1,000 payment sought for an employment permit, as well as restrictions on the professions in which asylum seekers were entitled to seek work in.

The department estimated that some 3,000 of the more than 5,300 people in the direct provision system would benefit from the changes.

Applicants must be in the State for nine months or more, and have not had a first decision made on their refugee status. This means many asylum seekers who are appealing decisions on their status are not eligible to seek work.

Pursuits and interests

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Flanagan said: “The public information campaign has been ongoing since the Government decision, and I welcome the fact that applications cover a wide range of pursuits and interests.

“I encourage all those eligible to acquaint themselves with the system, and assure them they can feel confident of protection and fairness under our laws.”

A further 403 people who had been granted self-employed permission between January and June of this year were automatically informed they could now access other areas of the workforce.

The Department of Justice had expected an influx of applications, but believes the number seeking permits will slow down as time passes.

The figures come to light just days after a Department of Justice briefing emerged warning the Government that an influx of “illegals” into the State after Britain leaves the EU could “sink” the asylum system and strain other public services.

The report estimates that there are between 400,000 and 800,000 so-called illegals from outside the European Economic Area living in the UK, and warns that should the UK’s immigration regime even appear to tighten after Brexit “the most obvious option would be to seek to exploit the Common Travel Area and come to Ireland”.

Were even 1 per cent of these to come to Ireland and claim asylum it could mean an additional 6,000 applicants, the briefing report states.

No fee

Under the changed rules asylum seekers are required to apply to the department seeking permission to enter the labour market. There is no fee involved, but asylum seekers must renew their application every six months to ensure they remain eligible.

Those granted permission to work, and who have been working for more than 12 weeks, see their direct provision allowance of €21.60 reduced or withdrawn.

There is also a requirement for asylum seekers in employment to contribute towards the cost of direct provision accommodation.

The directive is a significant advance on the previous scheme outlined by the Government which required asylum seekers to secure a job paying a starting salary of at least €30,000 per year, and prevented them from working in 60 different sectors such as hospitality, healthcare, social work, childcare, marketing, housekeeping and construction. Such earning requirements have been lifted.

At present it takes an average of 19 months just to be interviewed about refugee status, and as of last month 723 asylum seekers had been waiting three years or more on their applications or appeals.