Employment And Asylum Seekers

 

Sir, - According to a report in your edition of December 31st, "Labour shortages pose a serious threat to the future growth of the Irish economy". The report warns that urgent action is needed to prevent labour shortages slowing the economy down in coming years. To remedy the situation it suggests reducing high tax rates and eliminating physical obstacles to participation in the workplace.

While these remedies are necessary, the authors of the report don't mention an obvious solution to our labour problems - allowing asylum seekers to be re-trained to fill these positions. In one sector alone, the transport and logistics industry, total employment is expected to rise by 18,000. In one swoop, two important social and economic problems could be solved. Asylum seekers could fulfil a social role and satisfy their need to work while the Celtic Tiger's progress was enhanced.

This report shows the lack of an imaginative approach by this expert group and a blinkered vision of the problems encountered by asylum seekers and refugees. Presently, even if an asylum seeker is allowed to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds, there is no automatic right to work given. A prospective employer is required to fill out a daunting application form for a work permit for this person. The regulations require, inter alia: "Details of any efforts made to recruit an Irish/EEA national for the position. Efforts must include full details of advertisements placed in the national newspapers, plus any additional efforts made by the employer to source suitably qualified staff."

As readers can imagine, employers are loath to fill in such forms involving more bureaucracy and a suspicion that inspectors will be now breathing down their necks. To me this form is an institutionalised and inbuilt State discrimination against a foreign national who has permission to reside in this State. Ms Mary Harney has spoken of her wish that asylum seekers be allowed to work. She must first remove institutionalised obstacles such as the above and then put her wish forward for Cabinet approval. Apart from the humanitarian issues involved she can now argue with this report in hand that it makes sense, even on hard-nosed economic criteria. - Yours, etc., Brendan Butler,

Pennock Hill, Swords, Co Dublin.