Finally, the Supreme Court of Ireland has found that the absolute work ban for asylum seekers, dating back to 1996, is unconstitutional! Better late than never!
Let’s be frank and open, I’ve been an asylum seeker living in direct provision for 8 months now and, so far, I am still abiding by the law and haven’t gone into town looking for employment. Although my family has access to medical services and my kids go to school, I still need to pay for school craft materials, activities, exceptional transport needs and much more. I also have extra food expenses because we cook our own food in the centre. In total, all these expenses exceed the weekly €19.10 per adult and €15.60 per child allowance by at least 3 times. If we are to rely only on the provided weekly payments, my children will starve as they cannot eat food from the direct provision centre. They will loose on participating in paying school activities with their friends, and will feel down, ashamed and isolated as a result.
Should a guardian who feels responsible for the development, well-being and integration of his/ her children, and who, before entering the direct provision system, used to provide for the family, put on with such injustice or break the work ban? Realistically, how many parents do you think have abided by the ban for the unlimited amount of years during which their application for international protection was being processed, and passively waited for the Supreme Court to, at last, recognise their right to work? I’m pretty sure that all parties, in the society and in the state, are aware that asylum seekers are filling the jobs black market. I couldn’t imagine an asylum seeker, and especially a family guardian, standing still with no paid work for more than a year!
The ban is not only restraining asylum seekers from leading a normal life, integrating with the community and covering their own expenses, it’s also wasting many opportunities for local businesses and organisations to access the highly demanded skills that some asylum seekers have. Imagine the absurdity of the situation when a researcher and PhD holder has to work for free for a university just to keep himself occupied, while this same work would cover most of his family’s needs had work been legalised! Asylum-seekers that still need to upgrade their skills may have to enter the jobs black market, however, skilled ones like doctors or engineers cannot get employment in their profession without work permit. Hospitals, universities and international companies will not hire professionals who aren’t entitled to work in the state. So, if researchers, doctors and engineers seeking asylum are forced to break the ban due to its practical inapplicability, does that mean they should waste their time, hard-earned skills and high career expectations and resort to becoming waiters in restaurants, workers in farms or do other likewise unqualified jobs?
Although the six-month delay given to legislate on the issue is relatively short compared to the 20 years this injustice has burdened the lives of asylum seekers in Ireland, we hope a just, liberating legislation can be produced even sooner as the right to work is a main priority for asylum seekers. The community of asylum seekers will be forever grateful to their fellow Burmese whose case has led to such a historical legal shift.
For my part, a deportation order would be much more pleasant than having to enter the labour market illegally. More generally, by gearing their efforts towards speeding up the asylum application process, the Irish government may avoid having to produce palliative regulations trying to limit the harmful impact of lengthy stays in direct provision.