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Supreme Court formally declares end to ban preventing asylum seekers from working

The court found the ban to be unconstitutional “in principle” last May and the cabinet agreed to lift the ban last November.


Updated at midday 

THE SUPREME COURT has formally declared that the absolute ban on asylum seekers seeking employment is unconstitutional.

The court found the ban to be unconstitutional “in principle” last May and the cabinet agreed to lift the ban last November, in line with a European directive.

The Supreme Court had said it would make its formal declaration on the issue by 9 February.

Some groups have been critical of the restrictions that will placed on employment for those seeking asylum, with the Immigrant Council of Ireland describing the limitations being placed on the scheme as a “missed opportunity”.

The group decried the decision to restrict asylum seekers from looking for work in over 60 sectors (including retail and hospitality), the fact that up to €1,000 would have to be paid for a permit and the restriction to jobs with a minimum salary of €30,000.

Speaking in the Dáil last month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the government was approaching the issue in two steps, adding that the second step would go much further.

“We made a previous announcement some months ago that there would be much wider access to the labour market, including employment for positions that pay less than €30,000 a year,” Varadkar said.

“It has not been possible to do that, get the procedures in place and notify the European Commission that we are opting into the directive, so we are not going as far as we intend to go.

We are doing this in two steps, namely, this rather minimalist step first and then the almost full access, which is what we committed to, and that will be done in June.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission welcomed today’s development and said it would now seek engagement with the government and the Oireachtas on the issue of conditions of access to employement.

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Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said in a statement:

The Commission welcomes this final ruling, and is clear that the threat to human dignity posed by being deprived of any opportunity to engage in employment is not abstract or theoretical for people in direct provision.
The right to work is essential for realising other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, as Ireland’s National human rights institution is seeking to engage directly with Government and Oireachtas Members to ensure an effective and enduring right to work under the Constitution is put in place.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said a cross-departmental implementation group had been established and had met on a number of occasions to deal with some of the key issues which arise from Ireland’s opting-in to the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive 2013.

“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 directive, Flanagan said.

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.

More details on the labour access arrangements can be found in a government booklet published here.

Read: ‘Why not allow asylum seekers work where they want and pay taxes like everyone else?’ >

Read: Asylum seekers may only be allowed to work in certain jobs >

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Daragh Brophy

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