Update on Supreme Court Decision on Right to Work

The Supreme Court is due to make a formal announcement on Friday 9th February about the unconstitutionality of the ban on asylum seekers' right to work in this state. This follows on from the court's decision in May last year that this total ban is unconstitutional. Since then, the government has dragged its heels until finally last week it pushed a motion through the Oireachtas about opting in to the EU directive on reception conditions for asylum seekers including its very general directive on the right to work which allows individual states to decide on the details themselves.

MASI believes that the government is planning to introduce the most restrictive terms it can get away with, while spinning this as a sign of their great tolerance and charity toward asylum seekers. Our beliefs are well-founded. The government has not given any detail of what the right to work for asylum seekers will actually look like, and now has managed to get a majority across parties to let them get away with adopting the most restrictive possible 'interim measures' on back of the promise to opt-in to the EU directive some months down the road, without giving any detail about what shape this will take in reality for asylum seekers who want to work. 

These interim measures apply the existing work permits scheme to asylum seekers. This scheme limits the right to work in the state to a handful of highly paid professions, and requires the person applying to earn a starting salary of 30K minimum, and to pay 500-1000 euro for a work permit. These are unreachable targets for most people, never mind for people living in direct provision on 21 euro a week. If these interim measures are a taste of things to come, very few people seeking protection in Ireland will have the opportunity to earn their own living or support their families. 

Needless to say all of this has caused terrible distress and confusion among people in the asylum system. It is difficult to explain to people who will never have to endure the pain and desperation of living in limbo, what the right to work would mean in terms of giving people back some dignity and a sense of their own humanity, and what damage the government’s is doing to people who had hoped for so much more. We cannot sit quiet any longer. 

This is why MASI is calling for a demonstration where all organisations and supporters can join with asylum seekers in calling for the unrestricted right to work for all people in the asylum system. We need to let the court, the politicians and the people know that we will not put up with the games the government is playing with peoples’ lives and hopes. Thursday is the opportunity for us to speak loudly, clearly and urgently with one voice to push for a meaningful, unrestricted right to work for all so that we can live with some dignity and freedom.