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Seanad Commencement Matter
27th June 2017
The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to outline the implications for the State of the recent Supreme Court decision in relation to the right to work of asylum seekers in Ireland; and the steps the Government is considering taking to address the situation within the six months as prescribed by the Court.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh -
Opening Statement by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD
I would like to thank Senator Ó Clochartaigh for raising this important matter today.
Clearly, this is an important Judgement and its full implications are being examined carefully. The Court itself recognises the complexities around this issue in that it acknowledges the Executive's role in controlling and regulating this sensitive area of law and policy. It has had to consider the distinctions of rights between citizens and non-citizens in the context of Article 40.1 of the Constitution.
The Court has concluded that an absolute ban on the right to work for international protection applicants (as distinct from a time limit being set in legislation or some other means), is contrary to rights under Article 40.1 of the Constitution. The Court recognises that this is a matter for the Executive and Legislature to consider and accordingly has adjourned consideration of the Order the Court should make for a period of six months. It is expected that the State will make submissions to the Court in relation to the format of the Order the Court is to make at the appropriate time.
The Judgment raises obvious policy, legal and operational issues across a wide range of Government Departments and agencies. To reflect the “whole of Government” approach, which the Judgement necessitates, I intend to seek the approval of Government to establish with immediate effect an inter-Departmental Working Group to examine the implications of the Judgement and to consider appropriate solutions as quickly as possible. Proposals will be brought to Government as soon as that process concludes.
This Judgement should not be looked at in isolation without recognising the considerable reforms that have already been made to the system of international protection and the improvements that have been made and are continuing to be made to the Direct Provision system. Our new international protection legislation, commenced on 31st December last, is specifically designed to address the delays in decision making with consequent increased time spent in Direct Provision.
The processing times for first instance decisions are closely intertwined with the question of the right to work. In many EU Member States, the right to work is not an unfettered right, often arising after a particular period of time – usually 9 months to a year – and in many instances are limited to particular job categories, etc. For example in Sweden and Portugal the granting of a right to work coincides with the withdrawal of financial supports. One of the principle aims of the International Protection Act is to process cases as quickly as possible so that persons who are granted a permission to stay have an automatic right to work.
In conclusion, the full implications of the judgement will be examined in the coming period, including wider implications in relation to the operation of the Common Travel Area and indeed the ongoing Brexit negotiations. However, what can be said is that the Government, through its various measures to improve processing rates, is already moving to the stage whereby first instance decisions on status will be made as quickly as possible with persons granted status having automatic right to work. The dovetailing of this work with the Court Judgement will be examined in the coming period and I will endeavour to keep Senators informed of progress as the situation develops.