A child holding a sign at a protest outside the asylum seeker site in Lissywollen, Athlone, in 2014.

Asylum seekers to be allowed work as restrictions are lifted

The Government has announced it's lifting most of the restrictions which prevented asylum seekers from working while they are waiting on a decision about whether or not they'll be allowed to remain in Ireland. 

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan announced yesterday (Wednesday) that the change would come into effect this week and would allow asylum seekers to access the labour market nine months after their application to remain in the State is lodged.

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

Their application will be processed by the Labour Market Access Unit (LMAU) of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), on behalf of the Minister.

If the application is approved, permission to work will be granted for six months and will be renewable until a final decision is made on the applicant's legal status in the country. 

As a result of the change, asylum seekers will be allowed to work in all sectors of employment except the civil and public service, the Gardai and the Defence Forces.

“These measures are a further step on the road we have pursued in recent years to significantly reform our protection process,” said Minister Flanagan. 

“Effective access to the labour market will help to alleviate social and economic exclusion for applicants and avoid long-term dependency on the State.”

The Children's Rights' Alliance welcomed the Government's decision to grant asylum seekers the right to work, with minimal restrictions.

“This is a really welcome step in reforming our protection process. In recent weeks we have seen governments across the globe row back on asylum-seekers’ rights with devastating consequences,” said Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance. 

“The Government is to be commended for showing significant leadership at this time by granting asylum seekers the right to work.

“This move will have a positive knock-on impact on many children. We know that children living in Direct Provision are at a high risk of consistent poverty. This has been highlighted by HIQA and the Ombudsman for Children. 

“Allowing parents and young people access to the labour market will give families access to a critical route out of poverty,” she stated.