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'Considerable challenges': Direct Provision residents facing employment barriers despite right-to-work

Only 15% of the adult population of Direct Provision have taken up work since the right to work was granted last year.

Mosney Mosney Direct Provision Centre, Co Meath Source: Vukashin Nedeljovic/Asylum Archive

SINCE ASYLUM SEEKERS in Ireland were given the right to work last year 15% of people living in Direct Provision have taken up employment.

Last year, the government put into effect the EU Reception Conditions directive which gives asylum seekers the right to work while their claim is processed. 

A blanket ban which prevented asylum seekers from working was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in May 2017. 

So far, a total of 805 applicants have commenced employment or self-employment, according to the Department of Justice & Equality, based on returned declarations of employment forms – less than half of the overall number of permissions granted.

Of the 4,070 adults currently living in Direct Provision, 1,594 people have been granted permission to work.

According to the department, 579 people are confirmed to be in employment – 15% of the adult population of Direct Provision.

When a person takes up work it is required that a declaration form stating that they are working is returned to the department.

The department issue labour market access permissions which grant temporary access to the labour market and includes access to both employment and self-employment.

In a report published yesterday, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall noted that the introduction of work has had a positive effect on those living in direct provision centres. 

However, while 2,143 international protection applicants now have permission to work in Ireland, campaigners and migrant groups have said that significant barriers remain for people living in Direct Provision. 

‘Excluded’ 

“Employment is a crucial gateway to integration. It fosters autonomy, independence and the dignity of people seeking international protection,” Nick Henderson of the Irish Refugee Council has said.

The most recent figures indicate that, as well as the 579 adults living in Direct Provision now working, an additional 226 people not living in Direct Provision are also working.

“That is a fantastic achievement for those people to be working less than a year since the introduction of the right to work scheme,” Henderson has said. 

“However, the figures also indicate that around 63% of people seeking asylum who have permission to work, have not been able to find work. This reflects the considerable challenges and barriers people face in finding work”. 

Joyce, who is originally from Malawi, has been living in Mosney Direct Provision Centre, Co Meath for over two years. 

To travel to her job in Dublin, she must walk 40 minutes to the main road and make a 45-minute bus journey. “Transport is a big challenge,” she says. “I found three jobs that said I needed a drivers’ license”. 

Mosney. The Mosney Road, Co Meath Source: GoogleMaps

Those living in Direct Provision are not permitted to obtain a drivers’ license, however. Work permits must also be renewed every six months. Joyce has said that the Department of Transport should issue temporary drivers’ licenses in line with work permits. 

A friend living in Knockalisheen Direct Provision Centre in Co Clare successfully applied for their work permit, says Joyce. Due to the remote location of the centre could not access transport to seek employment, however. “People there are stuck with their work permits,” says Joyce. 

Joyce, who currently works one day a week while taking a college course, has said that when she did eventually receive her work permit she also encountered difficulty opening a bank account. “They didn’t accept me. I didn’t have a passport, I didn’t have a drivers’ license. It was so frustrating”. 

‘Considerable work’

Permission to work in Ireland only applies to those making their first application for refugee status.

Commenting on the most recent figures, Henderson of the Refugee Council has said that “it is also worth remembering that only those who have been waiting nine months or more for a decision on their asylum claim can apply for permission to work”. 

In addition to barriers like the remoteness of Direct Provision centres, inability to obtain drivers’ licenses and opening bank accounts, some employers do not seem to be aware that people seeking asylum can work, Henderson has said. 

“Those that are aware, can be put off by the temporary – six months – nature of the permission”.

“Considerable work needs to be undertaken across various Government departments, other public agencies and employment bodies to remove these barriers”.

“The gender breakdown of who is working should also be investigated and considered”.

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