(Brussels) – The Irish government should grant asylum seekers the right to work at least within nine months of filing their claims for protection, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. A new proposal from a governmental working group would allow asylum seekers to work nine months after filing their claims, in line with EU law.
Asylum seekers in Ireland are currently not allowed to work until they receive a decision on their status. According to the governmental working group’s report, 55 percent of asylum applicants in Ireland have been waiting for more than five years for their claims to be decided, and have been barred from working during that time.
“By not allowing asylum seekers to work, Ireland is an outlier among EU member states,” said Bill Frelick, refugee program director at Human Rights Watch. “Permitting asylum seekers to work would bring Ireland closer to complying with the Common European Asylum System and uphold asylum seekers’ rights.”
The recommendations, proposed on June 30 by a government working group in the Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers report, also include provisions to allow residency for asylum seekers whose claims have been pending for five or more years and to grant permission to remain in the country to those whose applications have not been processed within six months.
The right to work is recognized in key international refugee and human rights instruments, including the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The committee that oversees compliance with the ICESCR has said that article 6, which recognizes the right to work, applies “to everyone including non-nationals, such as refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons, migrant workers and victims of international trafficking, regardless of legal status and documentation.”
In June 2013, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union recast the Reception Directive to reduce the maximum time period member states can delay the grant of work authorization to asylum seekers from one year to nine months after their applications are filed, so long as delays in the claim are not attributable to the applicants themselves. Ireland, the UK, and Denmark are the only EU member states that do not apply the recast 2013 Reception Conditions Directive, although the UK remains bound by the 2003 version. Among the EU states that do apply the recast Reception Directive, Lithuania appears to be the only one not in formal compliance with the directive’s provisions on work rights for asylum seekers.
“Ireland’s refusal to allow them to work puts asylum seekers at a serious disadvantage while waiting – sometimes for years – for decisions on their refugee claims,” Frelick said. “Ireland should recognize work not only as a source of dignity, but as providing a livelihood that is integral to sustaining asylum seekers in the pursuit of their right to seek asylum.”