Chefs and asylum seekers

Sir, – The Restaurant Association of Ireland is complaining that the Department of Justice's heavy-handed stance on restricting immigration into Ireland is preventing Irish restaurants from dealing with a shortfall of up to 8,000 chefs ("Restaurant association boss says Ross is 'letting the industry down'", News, March 6th).

In particular the association’s chief executive said there must be large numbers of qualified cooks sitting idle in direct provision centres who could be allowed to work in the sector. I know several of those qualified direct provision cooks, and the cruel irony that they are often not even allowed to cook for their own families.

Hospitality is one of over 70 sectors where the Department of Justice has banned asylum seekers from working, in a mean-minded and inhumane response to last year’s Supreme Court ruling that the existing total ban on asylum seekers looking for work was unconstitutional.

The department’s new rules ban anyone getting a job that pays a starting salary of less than €30,000 and rules out jobs in sectors such as hospitality, healthcare, social work, childcare, general care services, housekeeping, construction, food, textiles, sales and marketing and administration. It is almost as if the department had gone out of its way to include in this list the trades and professions where asylum seekers (and particularly asylum-seeking women) are most likely to seek employment, and in sectors where the present situation of near-full employment means that employers are crying out for job applicants.


I know asylum seekers who last September started education and training courses specifically because they thought a new employment scheme would be opening up for them in the following 12 months. These people have told me of their huge disappointment that their hopes were raised by the Supreme Court decision only to be dashed by the department’s deeply ungenerous response.

As the son of a refugee who came to this country in 1948, I am proud to be Irish because of the humanity and generosity of its people. The actions of the Department of Justice, in contrast, make me ashamed. I believe that the vast majority of Irish people – if they were fully informed of the details of this unjust and confusing scheme – would agree with me. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.