On Thursday last, the Minister of State, Deputy David Stanton, and I announced details of the coming into effect of the EU (Recast) Reception Conditions Directive 2013 which includes enhanced access to the labour market for asylum seekers. In summary, eligible applicants will have access to all sectors of employment, with a small number of exceptions. The directive has much broader impacts on the wider protection system and includes important provisions regarding health, education, children’s rights and material reception conditions including housing, food, clothing and a daily expense allowance. The directive came into operation on 30 June following my signing into law of the relevant statutory instrument giving effect to the provisions of the directive. It replaces the limited access to the workplace introduced back in February which, as I indicated previously, was only ever designed as a short-term temporary measure.
Last year the Supreme Court found that an absolute ban on the right to seek employment for asylum seekers, where there was no time limit in the decision making process, was unconstitutional. The Government availed of this opportunity to broaden the scope of reform required and committed Ireland, with the approval of the Oireachtas, to opt-in to the directive, aligning our position with EU norms and standards. Under the directive, asylum seekers will have access to the labour market nine months from the date when their protection application was lodged, if they have yet to receive a first instance recommendation from the international protection office and if they have cooperated with the process. That permission covers both employment and self-employment and will be granted to eligible applicants for six months, renewable until there is a final decision on their protection application.
Access to the labour market will assist international protection applicants, who are ultimately successful in their application, to integrate more easily into society. For those who do not qualify, it will provide them with an income and skill sets to take with them on their return to their country of origin. It will also allow those with means to move out of State provided accommodation and provide for themselves from their own resources should they wish to do so.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
An information campaign has commenced to ensure that applicants, employers, trade unions, NGOs and all other relevant bodies are fully informed of the labour market access and eligibility arrangements that will apply. Full details and an application form are also be available on the INIS website, www.inis.gov.ie.
Participation in the directive builds upon the existing programme of reforms to ensure that applicants are treated humanely and with dignity and respect while awaiting a final decision on their protection application.