6.3 Restrictions on the Right to Work

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Asylum seekers and those seeking leave to remain on other protection grounds are completely prohibited from entering paid employment regardless of circumstances.1 Ireland opted out of an EU Directive which sets out minimum standards on the reception of applicants for asylum in Member States (the ‘Reception Directive’) and has chosen not to opt into the Recast Reception Directive which would grant an asylum seeker the right to work after nine months where a decision has not been made on his or her asylum application.2

In 2013, 68 per cent of residents in direct provision had spent three years or more in the system awaiting a decision on their application for protection.3 Despite these protracted delays and repeated calls for the Government to reconsider its ban on the right to work for asylum seekers,4 the Government remains steadfast in its view that such a move would ‘almost certainly have a profoundly negative impact on application numbers’.5 This work ban has had a detrimental effect on the mental health of asylum seekers and is resulting in their deskilling. Both issues have been highlighted as barriers to integration.6 Female asylum seekers have reported that the ban on work coupled with inadequate payments and lack of access to the wider social security system has forced them into prostitution in order to provide for their basic needs and those of their children.7


FLAC urges the Committee to recommend that the State:

  • Grant asylum seekers the right to work after a defined period of time if a decision has not been made on their initial application.

  • Give further consideration to opting into the Recast Reception Directive.


1 Section 9(4)(b) of the Refugee Act 1996.

2 European Parliament and Commission (2013) Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast), Brussels: Official Journal of the European Union.

3 Reception & Integration Agency (2014) Annual Report 2013, Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality, p.4.

4 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2011) Report of the UN Independent Expert on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona to the Human Rights Council, Geneva: OHCHR, p.21; European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (2013) ECRI Report on Ireland (fourth monitoring cycle), Strasbourg: Council of Europe, p.25.

5 Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, Parliamentary Question No.236, Written Answers, 27 March 2013.

6 S. Conlan (2014) Counting the Cost: Barriers to employment after direct provision, Dublin: Irish Refugee Council.

7 S. Connolly, ‘Women asylum seekers forced into prostitution’, Irish Examiner, 3 September 2014.

Last Updated: 22/01/2015 ^ back to top