Unanimous Supreme Court decision on right to work for asylum seekers a “landmark ruling”, says Nasc CEO Fiona Finn

Tue, May 30, 2017

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that the ban on the right to work for asylum seekers in the 1996 Refugee Act, which was transposed into the International Protection Act, 2015, constitutes an ‘absolute prohibition’ on employment which is unconstitutional.

The judgement is available online here.

Nasc CEO Fiona Finn:

“This is a potentially landmark ruling from the Supreme Court, and we are eager to see how the State will respond and what the final impact on the rights of asylum seekers will be.”

“The prohibition on the right to work has always been a key issue for asylum seekers, especially since the failures in the system have meant people have been stuck in limbo for years on end,” continues Ms. Finn. “Nasc has worked with asylum seekers to call for a right to work for almost two decades, since Nasc was established in 2000.”

“Not being able to work has a profound impact on people’s sense of identity and self-worth, on mental health and well-being, and on people’s ability to provide for themselves and for their families without being forced to live in poverty or being made to feel like a burden on the State.”

A limited right to work, in line with the Common European Asylum System, was a key recommendation in the McMahon Report on improving the protection process and direct provision, as it was one of the most widely discussed issues in the Working Group consultation process with asylum seekers.

Ireland is one of only two countries in Europe (the other being Lithuania) which has an absolute ban on employment for those seeking asylum. The EU Reception Conditions Directives calls for a right to work after 9 months if an application has not been decided upon.

“Asylum seekers and the groups involved in the Working Group process were profoundly disappointed when the Government failed to include a right to work in the International Protection Act, 2015. This was a significant missed opportunity for the State to rectify this breach of people’s fundamental right to dignity and autonomy.”

The ban on the right to work also has significant ‘knock on’ effects, including curtailing the ability to access some further education and training courses, which would allow people to upskill and achieve the relevant qualifications. In addition, prolonged absence from the labour market impacts people’s chances to find suitable employment when they are eventually given a residency permission.

“This judgment will have a profound impact on asylum seekers in Ireland. It will also have a positive effect on Irish society as it will help improve integration and economic opportunities for everyone in Ireland,” finishes Ms. Finn.

“Once again, it is down to the Courts to force the State to live up to its constitutional and human rights obligations. We hope the State will act quickly now in response to the judgment and take the necessary actions to remove the absolute ban on employment for asylum seekers and ensure the dignity and autonomy of people seeking asylum.”

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