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'Why not allow asylum seekers work where they want and pay taxes like everyone else?'

‘Why not allow asylum seekers work where they want and pay taxes like everyone else?’, writes Sorcha Grisewood.

THE SUPREME COURT is declaring today that the ban on asylum seekers working in Ireland is unconstitutional.

The court found the ban to be unconstitutional “in principle” last May and the cabinet agreed to lift the ban last November but the job options for asylum seekers under the new scheme are exceptionally limited.

A 6-12 month work permit can only be obtained by securing a job with a starting salary of at least €30,000 and the permit alone will cost €500 to €1000.

Asylum seekers must have been here for more than nine months to be able to work and are excluded from working in 60 different sectors, including hospitality, healthcare, social work, general care services, marketing, sales, administration, housekeeping, food and construction, ie the vast majority of jobs.

At the moment these regulations are an “interim measure”. However, as we have seen before, “interim measures” have a way of becoming permanent.

As it stands people in the centres are provided with meals and given a weekly allowance of just €21.60. The system was set up as a six-month measure 17 years ago.

Right to work is only for the highly qualified

These caveats mean that only the most highly qualified and experienced asylum seekers can obtain the right to work.

Not only do they have to find an employer willing to hire and pay them at least €30,000 – employers must show evidence that they advertised and were unable to find an EU citizen to fill the role.

Many asylum seekers are from unstable African countries experiencing political and economic turmoil. While there may be some very highly qualified asylum seekers, it’s likely that this is the exception rather than the rule.

Trauma and disruption

A person seeking asylum will have experienced trauma and disruption throughout the course of their normal lives, and this may have affected their education. Many asylum seekers are women and women with children, some born into direct provision.

People seeking asylum are forced to flee their homes and countries of birth because war and political instability make it impossible to live there. They’re here because they had no choice but to seek a better life elsewhere. What is wrong with that?

Haven’t we all the right to pursue happiness? Asylum seekers are not here in this grey, rain-sodden isle of ours  because they really want to be far from their homes, family and friends.

Only difference is geography and skin colour

Why have so many young Irish people left Ireland? Economic opportunity and better lives abroad. The only difference is geography and skin colour.

Many asylum seekers may lack educational qualifications but not the desire to learn, contribute and create their own destinies. How many would love to work in any job rather than living in enforced limbo for months, often years, awaiting a decision from our Department of Justice?

The Minister’s decision is innately unjust, cruel and downright discriminatory.

I wish everyone was valued equally

I wish Ireland was a fairer, more humane and compassionate country. I wish everyone was valued equally. I wish those able and willing to work were allowed to, without any condition. I wish they were encouraged and incentivised, not prevented, from doing so.

Mental health issues caused to asylum seekers living in the oppressive direct provision system of cramped, overcrowded accommodation and state handouts while awaiting a decision on asylum status have been well documented.

It is yet another example of Ireland’s shame, to add to our current homelessness problem, the history of Magdalene laundries and clerical abuse and the imposition of the Eighth Amendment.

Decision is shameful

Why not allow people work in whatever sector they wish, pay taxes like everyone else and become full participants in our society?

I don’t understand the mentality behind imposing these discriminatory conditions. Let’s call a spade a spade. They are discriminatory towards people who have undoubtedly suffered enough at the hands of this State.

The Minister for Justice’s decision is shameful. It doesn’t represent me. An apology and compensation will be required at some future date to the victims of the direct provision scheme.

Sorcha Grisewood is a teacher and writer with a particular interest in social justice issues. She blogs at


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