Tag Archives: Asylum Seekers

This afternoon.

Outside Leinster House.

Members of Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, Anti-Racism Network Ireland and Refugee and Migrant Solidarity Ireland, and their supporters, are holding a demonstration calling for a meaningful right to work for asylum seekers in Ireland.

It comes ahead of an expected announcement from the Supreme Court tomorrow.

MASI writes:

The Supreme Court is due to make a formal announcement [tomorrow] 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 €30,000 minimum, and to pay €500-€1,000 euro for a work permit.

These are unreachable targets for most people, never mind for people living in direct provision on €21 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.

Right To Work Now (Facebook)

Pics: Immigrant Council of Ireland

This afternoon.

Further to the Supreme Court’s unanimous finding in May that the ban preventing asylum seekers in Ireland for working is “in principle” unconstitutional…

Mary Carolan, in The Irish Times, reports:

“The Supreme Court has told the State it will make a formal declaration next February that the absolute ban preventing asylum seekers working here is unconstitutional.

“The five-judge court said on Thursday the declaration will be made on February 9th, irrespective of what progress the State has made towards addressing the court’s findings on the ban.

“…Nuala Butler SC, for the State, said the Government was in the process of opting into the EC Reception Directive, which contains a provision requiring member states to afford the right to work in certain circumstances, but the matter was complex with many issues requiring to be addressed.

She urged the court not to make a formal declaration of unconstitutionality today, saying it would lead to a “flood” of applications seeking permission to work.

“…Michael Lynn SC, for the Rohingya man who brought the successful challenge to the ban, said his side would prefer a declaration was made today but did not want to create “unnecessary obstacles” and the issue was for the court to decide.

“…The Rohingya man, aged in his thirties, spent eight years in direct provision before getting refugee status here last year. While offered work in his direct provision centre in 2013, he could not take that up due to the ban on seeking work.

“While in direct provision on a €19 weekly allowance, he suffered depression and “almost complete loss of autonomy”, he said. Being allowed to work was vital to his development, personal dignity and “sense of self worth”.”

Court to rule work ban for asylum seekers is unconstitutional (Mary Carolan, The Irish Times)

This morning.

Further to the Supreme Court ruling last May that the ban preventing asylum seekers is unconstitutional

The Irish Times reported that Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is to bring the Government’s plans to allow asylum seekers work to Cabinet next week.

Fiach Kelly reported:

Asylum seekers who spend more than nine months in the direct provision system without having their case decided on are to be given the right to work, become self-employed or access training.

…Under the Minister’s proposals, those who meet the criteria will be entitled to work by way of renewable six-month permits.

However, the right will be subject to some restrictions, such as areas of the economy in which those concerned can work.

… Those eligible to work will be given a “temporary and renewable” six-month stamp from the Department of Justice, which will also allow them to become self-employed or access vocational training.

However, access to work will be allowed to “certain but restricted sectors of employment”, and these areas of work will be kept under review.

The right to work will not be given to those whose status is decided within nine months, or those who seek to appeal or review a decided status.

Ministers to approve work rights for asylum seekers (The Irish Times)

Readers may wish to note that, in 1999, there was a brief reprieve for certain asylum seekers from the work ban.

Following widespread calls from business groups, trade unions and advocacy groups – and a U-turn by Fianna Fail – the then Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats coalition allowed asylees work.

The work initiative allowed for asylees, who had applied for protection before July 26, 1999, and who had been waiting on a decision on their application for over 12 months, to apply for work.

By the end of June 2000, 1,032 out of 3,241 asylees entitled to work had either found a job or had stopped claiming social welfare.

In addition, this right to work was on a non-transferable basis, so that an asylee couldn’t work independently of a job specified by a prospective employer, while the employer also had to pay a monthly fee of IR£25 – or a one-off annual fee of IR£125 – to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Earlier today.

In an unanimous decision.

The seven-judge Supreme Court ruled that the ban prohibiting asylum seekers from work is unconstitutional.

The challenge to the ban was taken by a man from Burma, who spent eight years in direct provision, after he was offered a job in 2013 but couldn’t accept it.

Last September, he was granted refugee status and, following that, the State had argued that his challenge be dismissed – given his new status allowed him to work – but the man, and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission urged the court to address the issue.

Mary Carolan, in The Irish Times, reports:

“The point has been reached when it cannot be said the legitimate differences between an asylum seeker and a citizen can continue to justify the exclusion of an asylum seeker from the possibility of employment,” [Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell] said.

This damage to the individual’s’ self worth and sense of themselves, is exactly the damage which the constitutional right [to seek employment] seeks to guard against.”

The evidence from the man of the depression, frustration and lack of self-belief at being unable to work “bears this out”, he added.

He said, in principle, he would be prepared to find, in circumstances where there is no temporal limit on the asylum process, the “absolute prohibiton” on seeking of employment in Section 9.4, and re-enacted in Section 16.3.b of the International Protection Act 2015, “is contrary to the constitutional right to seek employment”.

Because this situation arises because of the intersection of a number of statutory provisions, and could arguably be met by alteration of one or other of those, and since that was “first and foremost a matter for executive and legislative judgment” , the court would adjourn consideration of what form of order to make for six months, he said.

After that period elapsed, the court would hear submissions from the sides as to what form of order should be made “in the light of the circumstances then obtaining”.

Ban on asylum seekers working unconstitutional, says Supreme Court (The Irish Times)

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This evening.

At Leinster House.

Up to 30 asylum seekers, along with members of the groups Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland and Anti Racism Network, and others, will make a presentation on the International Protection Act (IPA) to members of the Dáil.

As this presentation takes place, supporters will gather outside the gates of the Dáil.

Organisers of the event write:

Last month, the IPO (International Protection Office) launched the single application procedure for asylum seekers in Ireland. In early February the IPO sent a 60-page questionnaire form to over 3000 people in the asylum process to be returned within 20 days, including legal counsel.

This new procedure was supposed to increase the efficiency of Ireland’s asylum process. It has, according to those affected, been a ‘shambolic disaster’. Lack of clarity about the deadline, the paralysis of the swamped Refugee Legal Service, the difficulties of retrieving documentation, poor translations of of the form are just some of the obstacles people have had to deal with as they complete a form determining their future and the futures of their children.

The IPA has introduced sweeping changes to Ireland’s immigration law. Many of its provisions seem designed to undermine the internationally recognised right to seek asylum. While the Department of Justice insists that the single procedure will speed up the asylum process, fears that this will be achieved through accelerated deportations, unmonitored refusals, and defective, erratic assessment processes are being proven all too accurate.

Vicky Donnelly of Galway One World Centre observes: “While Trump’s ‘travel ban’ has, quite correctly, been criticised by politicians here, Ireland has been quietly deporting people at the border before they can even make a proper case for asylum. At a time of unprecedented crisis, when a focus on human rights is most needed, the IPB appears purpose-designed to facilitate and speed up deportations. History will judge us harshly unless we recognise these issues and act to correct them.”

Campaigners to visit Leinster House and highlight new Direct Provision chaos 

 

Support MASI! Challenge the International Protection Act (Facebook)

Previously: Heard It Before

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Lissywollen Direct Provision centre for asylum seekers, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

Political expenses and FOI sleuth Ken Foxe obtained copies of letters of complaints made by asylum seekers living in direct provision centres across Ireland.

The mechanism to allow asylees make formal written complaints about the centres was introduced by the Department of Justice in 2011.

The number of complaints has fallen over the years, however rights groups say this is because the residents of the centres generally have little faith in the system.

In the current edition of Village magazine, Mr Foxe reports there have been complaints about the bullying of a child by a staff member; infestations of vermin; and rooms with no heating, among other complaints.

The centres are not identified in the article.

Mr Foxe reports:

In a centre in the Mid-West, a group of residents wrote about repeated gross invasions of their privacy.

“The manager get in any room and search our private bags and take our stuff”, they wrote.

They explained how CCTV was installed to watch the windows of their room, which were locked so that they would not open more than a centimetre.

The residents also described how they were made to sign in daily and, if they did not, a letter was sent to social welfare officers seeking cuts to the tiny weekly payment of €19 that they receive.

…At the same centre, a disabled asylum-seeker had pleaded to be allowed to share a room with his Afghan friends because he needed help in every “aspect of life”.

“They treat us the way like we are in prison”, he wrote: “They don’t care about your health, your condition, [and] depression and will make your head burst out and become crazy. Our condition is even worse than prisoners because they have some respect inside the jail but we don’t have that at all”.

The complaint was investigated and it was discovered that there were fourteen vacancies at the centre and the request to stay together could easily have been facilitated.

…[Jennifer DeWan of NASC Ireland said]: “The number of complaints has been falling yet we are still hearing about all the same issues. People just don’t see the benefit of complaining – because even when they do, nothing changes. The mechanisms need to be safe for asylum seekers to use and there must be a positive result when they use them.”

Refugee Reality: FOI complaints show lunatics taking over the asylum-seekers (Village)

Previously: Postcards From Direct Provision

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Moria detention centre on Lesbos island this morning

You may recall yesterday’s deportation of 202 migrants from Lesbos and Chios islands in Greece to Turkey, with the assistance of 180 Frontex officers.

The deportations are a part of the €3billion EU/Turkey deal, of which Ireland is contributing €22million.

Last week the Department of Justice announced it will send three case workers from the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), and two members of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal to the Greek islands.

The department said it is also considering a request from Frontex for border guards to assist them with the deportations – even though Ireland is not a member of Frontex.

Last night on RTÉ One’s Drivetime, Lesbos-based journalist Andrew Connolly spoke with Mary Wilson.

Mr Connolly said:

“I’ve just been at the Moria detention centre talking to Pakistanis… based on my conversations with some of them, it’s very, I find it difficult to believe that some of the deportees this morning might have even understood the concept of asylum.

Again it’s being claimed by the Greek authorities and the European Asylum Office and also the UNHCR they seem to be satisfied that everyone was told their rights but they didn’t claim asylum in Greece.”

Further to this, Patrick Kingsley, in The Guardian reports this afternoon that the UN has told how 13 of the 202 deported yesterday may not have been given the opportunity to seek asylum before they were deported – as police officers “forgot”.

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to seek asylum. Mr Kingsley reports:

Some of the first people to be deported from Greece under the terms of the EU-Turkey migration deal may not have been given the chance to claim for asylum, the UN refugee agency has said.

Police “forgot” to process the asylum claims of 13 of the 202 asylum seekers sent back to Turkey on Monday, the first day the deal was put into practice, according to Vincent Cochetel, director of UNHCR’s Europe bureau.

… Cochetel said on Tuesday that 13 Afghans and Congolese asylum seekers – who reached the Greek island of Chios after 20 March, and who were deported back to Turkey on Monday – were not allowed to formally register their asylum claims, due to administrative chaos on the island.

… Cochetel told the Guardian: “For four days after the 20th, the Greek police did not register any intention to seek asylum as they were no prepared [or] equipped for this, so we started providing forms to people who had declared their intention to seek asylum.”

“The police received most of the people with these forms and … forgot some apparently. It is more a mistake than anything else, we hope.”

…On Monday, more asylum seekers landed in Greece from Turkey (228) than were deported in the opposite direction (202).

Meanwhile…

UPATE:

Listen back to Drivetime interview in full here

Greece may have deported asylum seekers by mistake, says UN (Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian)

Pic: Andrew Connolly

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A free course [details at link below] for refugees migrants and asylum seekers (and their supporters) in finding a voice, articulating a case and dealing with the media.

Dublin City of Sanctuary

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A press release published by the Department of Social Protection last night and a tweet by the Irish Refugee Council

Last night the Department of Social Protection officially announced – and published a press release – that the weekly allowance for children seeking asylum is to be raised by €6 from €9.60 to €15.60.

This has already been reported.

However, in addition to the increase benefitting young asylees – who are in the process of seeking refugee protection – the department also said that the increase will also benefit “those coming to Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme and the UNHCR-led Resettlement Programme.”

It’s understood that the people who are being relocated to Ireland under this programme – such as the group of Syrians who were brought to Clonea Strand Hotel near Dungarvan before Christmas –  have been predetermined as refugees by the UNHCR.

And once a person is recognised as a refugee in Ireland, they are entitled to apply for social welfare payments on the same basis as an Irish citizen.

Anyone?

Government announces increase to the direct provision allowance for children (Welfare.ie)

Previously: Institutionalised

A Wintry Welcome

The Institutionalisation Of 1,818 Children

Thanks Subpri.me

UPDATE:

In response to the increase…

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance and member of the Working Group on the Protection Process, says: “As a member of the Working Group, I was deeply upset to witness first-hand the poverty that children in direct provision must endure. This increase – which will barely cover the cost of a bottle of Calpol – can only be seen as a gesture of goodwill. Our welcome is given with a strict proviso that the full increase to their payment be secured in the short-term.”

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy at Barnardos, says, “While any increase is a move in the right direction, it is difficult to see the justification for such a paltry increase – less than a third of what the working group recommended and still far short of what they need. The direct provision system is no place for children and this increase will do precious little to change that. It must be abolished.”

Grainia Long, CEO of ISPCC, says, “ISPCC staff have worked with families in Direct Provision and seen the hardship caused by the inadequate level of financial support. We’ve heard from mothers trying to save an extra egg to bake a birthday cake for a child, and from children who have never known anything other than basic conditions in institutional settings. The modest increase from ministers is welcome, but it falls short of what children need, and will ultimately mean that children in Direct Provision remain woefully unsupported by the Irish state in 2016.”

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Children protest at the Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre in Cork in September 2014

Journalist Brian O’Connell told RTÉ Radio One’s Today With Seán O’Rourke this morning that, following discussions he has had with asylum seekers, he believes fresh protests may be organised in direct provision centres across Ireland as the country starts to welcome 4,000 Syrian refugees.

It follows the publication of the Report of the Working Group on the Protection Process including Direct Provision in June – which contained 170 recommendations – many of which have yet to be implemented.

Mr O’Connell spoke with Fiona Finn, CEO of immigrant support centre NASC for the show.

During their discussion, Ms Finn agreed with Mr O’Connell’s assertion that as the 4,000 refugees arrive, tensions are likely to rise in the Direct Provision centres.

Ms Finn said:

“What we’ve actually found over the last number of weeks is that there’s an awful lot of anger and disquiet in the centres because the residents in the centres feel that nothing has been done since the publication of the [working group] report. And I think they feel very much kind of forgotten about and they feel very much left behind. And this is coming to kind of sharp focus now with the announcement that we’re going to bring 4,000 new refugees and asylum seekers in the State. And our fear is the fear that’s echoed by the residents in the centres is that a sort of two-tier system is going to emerge. So what you’re going to have is the deserving and the undeserving refugee.”

“We are getting a very clear sense of that [asylum seekers mobilising for protest]. I think the people in Direct Provision feel that they were given a glimmer of hope when the working group was established and when the recommendations came out. The hope that they had, that things would be changed, has now been extinguished.”

“We’re very disappointed that action hasn’t happened sooner [on foot of the working group report]. I think we trusted the process, as did everybody else around the table and it was our understanding that the implementation of the recommendations of the working group would happen in a very short period, post its publication, but that does not seem to be the case at the moment.”

“I think the people who are living in the centres do feel that they’ve been left behind, they’ve been forgotten about and I think whilst I think our commitment to bringing in 4,000 new refugees and asylum seekers is very, very positive and is a very good start, it can not be the reason for us not to discharge our human rights obligations and duties to those who are already waiting in our current system.”

Listen back in full here