Statement by the Minister for Justice and Equality on the right to work for asylum seekers

 

9 February 2018

 

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has noted that following the Supreme Court’s decision of 30 November 2017, the provisions of the International Protection Act 2015 which prohibited labour market access for international protection applicants have been struck down today. This followed an initial finding by the Court in May 2017 that in an application system with no time limit as to when the decision making process will be concluded, an absolute ban on the right to seek employment for asylum seekers was unconstitutional.

 

The Minister said: “Today is an important day for those in the international protection system. It marks an end to the absolute prohibition on seeking access to the labour market which has been in place for many years. The Government has embraced the findings of the Supreme Court and has committed to opting-in to the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive 2013 which will align our position with EU norms and standards.

 

Opting into the Directive is a very positive development for the entire protection system and for applicants and their families while they await a final decision on their application. In addition to labour market access, the Directive also includes important provisions in relation to children’s rights, health, education and material reception conditions for applicants, which includes housing, food, clothing and a daily expenses allowance.

 

Following two positive debates in the Oireachtas on 23 January, the Government has moved at speed to begin the compliance process required by the EU for opt-in to this Directive. We have notified the European Council and Commission that Ireland wishes to opt-in to the Directive and a compliance procedure with the European Commission is now underway.

 

A cross-Departmental Implementation Group has been established and has met on a number of occasions to deal with some of the key issues which arise from the opt-in and compliance procedures. The precise extent of labour market access under the Directive is being considered by this Implementation Group. The determination of appropriate sectors will be made by the Group and factors taken into account will include the skills profile of the current qualifying cohort and any labour market gaps.

 

Under the EU Treaties, the compliance process for opting-in to the Directive lasts up to four months. I therefore expect effective access to the labour market to be provided to asylum seekers under the Directive in June. Unfortunately however, this four month requirement under the EU Treaties has resulted in a window from today, when the existing legislative provisions have been struck down,  and June where the Directive is not yet in force in the State.

 

While we await confirmation of our opt-in to the Directive from the European Commission, a default position has come into place today whereby international protection applicants, as a category of non-EEA nationals, now fall under the terms of the Employment Permits Act 2003 (as amended). Under that Act, third country nationals can apply for an employment permit in certain sectors defined by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Employment permit fees apply, though these are generally paid wholly or partly by employers. To bring clarity to the situation regarding self-employment, I have also used my executive powers to introduce a complementary self-employment scheme for eligible applicants (all those in the system who are awaiting a first instance recommendation for both refugee status and subsidiary protection status for nine months or more on the date they apply for the self-employment permission under the scheme). This scheme will also take effect today as well access to Employment permits.

 

I would like to emphasise that these arrangements which come into place today are strictly temporary measures pending confirmation of our request to opt-in to the Recast Reception Conditions Directive. I look forward to the entering into force of the Directive in the State in June and will present details of the precise details of labour market access under the Directive upon completion of the Implementation Group’s work in this regard.”

 

ENDS

 

Note to editors:

 

Information on the interim arrangements was provided to employers, trade unions, NGOs and other relevant stakeholders at a meeting hosted by the Department of Justice and Equality on 31 January.

 

Information is also being provided to eligible applicants themselves and an Information Booklet has been distributed to all Direct Provision centres and in the International Protection Office. The Booklet and general details of the access arrangements, which apply from today (9 February) have been made available on the INIS website (www.inis.gov.ie) since Monday 5 January. Information roadshows are also taking place in Direct Provision accommodation centres this week and will continue into early next week.

 

The application form for the administrative scheme for self-employment will be available on the INIS website from today and applications will be processed as quickly as possible and in the order in which they are received. Applications can be submitted online to the INIS Labour Market Access Unit or if submitting by post a freepost PO Box number has been set up.