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Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Minister for Justice and Equality
Dail Eireann, Leinster House, Dublin 2

Via email

Dear Minister Fitzgerald,

I am writing to express Human Rights Watch’s support for the recommendation to grant asylum seekers the right to work proposed by the Government working group chaired by Mr. Justice Bryan MacMahon in its report, Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers

The working group proposal would give asylum seekers the right to work nine months after filing their claims, would allow residency for asylum seekers whose asylum claims have been pending for five or more years, and would grant permission to remain in the State to those whose applications have not been processed within six months, among other provisions.

Human Rights Watch regards work as a source of dignity as well as livelihood for many asylum seekers, which helps enable them to realize their right to seek asylum.

As discussed in the November 2013 Human Rights Watch report on the United States “At Least Let Them Work,” the right to work is recognized in numerous international 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 Council recast the Reception Directive to change 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. Member states are free, however, to provide more favorable conditions to asylum seekers within their own countries, and a number of states, including Austria, Cyprus, Spain, and Belgium, provide work authorization to asylum seekers after six months or less. 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). To our knowledge, Lithuania is the only member state that has not opted out of the recast Reception Directive that is not in compliance with it.

Approving the recommendations in the working group report would bring Ireland closer in line with the Common European Asylum System in upholding asylum seekers’ rights. 



Bill Frelick
Refugee Rights Program

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