UNHCR welcomes Irish decision to opt in to EU Law on right to work for asylum-seekers

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has welcomed the government's decision to bring Ireland into line with the European Union (EU) law that regulates the provision of accommodation to asylum-seekers, and provides for the right to work where they do not receive a decision within nine months.

"Yesterday's decision by the government to opt in to the Recast Reception Conditions Directive will for the first time set out comprehensively in law the rights of asylum-seekers while they await a decision on their application. This development will, in tandem with other improvements and reforms to the accommodation system for asylum-seekers, help to restore public confidence in the direct provision system. It will also ensure better integration prospects for refugees", said Enda O'Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland.

"The earlier people can access the labour market the better their chances of integration in the long term. Long periods spent waiting in direct provision for a decision on your application can lead to dependency and disempowerment among people seeking protection here." 

Further details on the exact regulations to be introduced are awaited. Although the Directive requires States to offer labour market rights to asylum-seekers waiting nine months or more for a decision, UNHCR recommends that access to the labour market be granted no later than six months from the date of lodging the application. This timeline would coincide with Article 31 (3) of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, which foresees a six month maximum timeline (save for exceptional cases/circumstances) for processing applications for international protection.

However with asylum-seekers now waiting up to two years to receive their first decision on applications, UNHCR urged the government to bring overall processing times down over the following months.

"Deploying an adequate number of staff to the decision making bodies would ensure that only small numbers of applicants would ultimately need to have recourse to any new provisions on labour market access. Importantly, it would also provide people in need of international protection the opportunity to begin their integration process as soon as possible, and to reduce lengthy periods of time spent in Direct Provision, including vulnerable persons and children."