Government unveils new regime for asylum seekers to access labour market

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

The Government has set out the details of a new regime for asylum seekers to access the labour market, over a year after the absolute prohibition on employment was ruled unconstitutional.

A temporary regime, criticised by immigration practitioners for being too restrictive, was put in place after the Supreme Court struck down section 9(4) of the Refugee Act 1996 in February.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the new regime represented the entry into force of the EU (recast) Receptions Conditions Directive.

Asylum seekers will have access to the labour market nine months from the date when their protection application was lodged, if they have yet to receive a first instance recommendation from the International Protection Office, and if they have “cooperated with the process”.

Eligible applicants may apply to the Justice Minister for a labour market permission, which covers both employment and self-employment.

The Labour Market Access Unit (LMAU) of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) will process applications.

The permission will be granted to eligible applicants for six months and will be renewable until there is a final decision on their protection application. Eligible applicants will have access to “all sectors of employment”, with the exception of the Civil and Public Service, An Garda Síochána and the Irish Defence Forces.

Mr Flanagan (pictured) said the Government had “approved a broad and generous access to the labour market for qualified applicants amongst a number of other important reforms in a range of areas covered by the Directive including reception conditions for applicants, improved identification of vulnerability and children’s rights”

He added: “These measures are a further step on the road we have pursued in recent years to significantly reform our protection process.

“Effective access to the labour market will help to alleviate social and economic exclusion for applicants and avoid long-term dependency on the State. Asylum seekers will have access to additional means to provide for themselves and their families outside of the State’s directly provided services and supports and will be in a better position to play a fuller role in Irish society while their claim for protection is being determined. Ireland is one of the few EU Member States to allow eligible asylum seekers to also engage in self-employment.”