‘Economic Self-Interest May Do The Job’


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Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

The Irish Times is reporting this morning that the Government will establish a working group next month to review Ireland’s direct provision system.

The matters to be examined will include the weekly payments (€19.10 for adults, €9.60 for children, which have remained unchanged since 2000) and access to college. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald also promises to introduce a system which would streamline the processing asylum applications.

It should be noted that this streamlined approach has been promised several times by several previous justice ministers.

The Irish Times article adds:

“However, [Justice Minister France Fitzgerald] ruled out extending the right to work for asylum seekers who have been in the system for long periods, due to the high level of unemployment in the State.”

Readers may recall that, although asylum seekers are banned from working under the Refugee Act 1996, there was an exception to the rule in 1999 when – following widespread calls from business groups, trade unions and advocacy groups – the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats coalition allowed asylees work, under certain conditions.

The move was seen as a significant U-turn by the main government party, Fianna Fáil, as it had publically clashed with its coalition partner, the PDs, on the matter for almost a year prior to the changing of its stance on the issue.

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.

Readers may wish to recall a few things that happened in the run-up to the work ban being lifted, albeit briefly.

In May 1998, at its annual conference, the trade union IMPACT called for asylees to be allowed work, while also calling for a Charter on Asylum Rights in Ireland.

Two months later, a campaign specifically calling for asylees to be allowed work was led by advocacy group Asylum Rights Alliance.

It was endorsed by more than 100 organisations – including ICTU and the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed. The late former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, of FG, supported the campaign, calling the ban “ill-conceived” and “incomprehensible”.

In July 1998, a survey in the Irish Times showed more than 80% of people believed asylees should be allowed work while.

In November 1998, the Economic and Social Research Institute produced a report stating Ireland was facing a labour shortage and needed to find 285,000 extra employees between 1995 and 2003.

Further evidence of an economic interest in allowing asylees work came in February 1999, when the then Governor of the Bank of Ireland Howard Kilroy also called for asylees to work, in order to help meet labour shortages.

In July 1999, CSO figures showed Ireland’s unemployment figure was below 100,000 for the first time in 19 years.

In an Irish Times editorial on July 22, 1999, the work ban was branded “perverse”.

Before the ban was lifted, but reading the change in sentiment, an Irish Times editorial in 1999, foretold:

“Where humanitarian considerations failed to move the heart of this Government on the issue of asylum seekers, it seems that economic self-interest may do the job.”

In the Dàil, there were debates about the then labour shortage and desires of Ireland’s main employers’ group IBEC.

On Thursday, June 24, 1999, then Labour TD Michael D Higgins noted:

“Considerable weight has been added to the argument for allowing asylum seekers to work by the support of IBEC. The employers’ organisation has identified a skills shortage which is threatening the economy and which must be addressed. Meanwhile, a skills bank which could make a net contribution to the State lies untapped because someone decided that asylum seekers should not be allowed to work, under any circumstances, pending the determination of their applications. I understand that the ICTU has also supported the argument… Given the weight of these combined arguments, I cannot see why a decision cannot be made.”

On the same day, FF TD Marian McGennis also noted:

“Our decision should not be based on a request by IBEC or any employers’ group that because there are skills shortages, a right to work should be granted to a person to whom we would not have granted it two years ago when unemployment was at 240,000. The decision must be based on granting the right to work to asylum seekers after a certain period of time. When we have no skills shortages we may claim we will employ only our own people, and that would be racist. We should grant it because it is a human right.”

Government to review conditions for asylum seekers (Carl O’Brien, Irish Times)

Photocall Ireland

30 thoughts on “‘Economic Self-Interest May Do The Job’

  1. Jock

    The should never have the right to work unless they are confirmed genuine refugees.
    A right to work on arrival will equate to an open border for employment.

    Please stop pushing this ridiculous left wing agenda.

    1. SOMK

      Ah yeah, because our system for identifying refugees as being genuine or not is so damn flawless, just ask Mohamed Ali Sleyum, or not because he’d dead after being tortured to death by Tanzanian police days after the Irish system didn’t consider him sufficiently ‘genuine’.

      FFS, some people I swear, what the f** is wrong with you.

    2. Vermicious

      Why are the options only (a) no right to work, and (b) right to work immediately on arrival? Isn’t there sense in sense in a proportionate grant of discretionary permission to work in circumstances where, due to delay in decision making by the State, an asylum seeker is in the State for such a long period of time that it is excessively harmful to the asylum seeker, his family, if he has one, and the State, to continue to force idleness?

      1. Jock

        The delays are all due to the extensive web of lies woven by each economic migrant that is costly and slow to investigate properly.

      2. Jock

        The delays are all due to the extensive web of lies woven by each economic migrant that is costly and slow to investigate properly.

          1. All the good ones fly south for winter

            It’s typed Tina not spoken. So it would be stop your racist typing.

          2. Clampers Outside!

            Easy Tina, he has a point. And there’s nothing racist in pointing it out, and pointing out the faults in the system and the issues that arise with some of those going through it..

            Just sayin’ like.

  2. Hosannah in the Hiace

    the vast increase in “asylum seekers” occurred just when Ireland’s economy picked up. Before then economic self interest meant they weren’t interested!

    the economy has deflated but the vast welfare spend continues so the economic decisions were valid for those individuals.

    pretending that economics isn’t the primary driver of migrant decisions is just as dishonest as the Church PR that you get so exercised about!

    1. All the good ones fly south for winter

      ..but your mates find it awkward and BBQ invites are down this summer. Give them time.

  3. mauriac

    I think the work issue is a red herring. Asylum seekers should be processed within six months .Over that time they should get residency with a view to citizenship.That would speed things up! Keeping people in limbo indefinitely is Kafkaesque .

    1. Jock

      Cross border investigations with third world countries are nearly impossible. This is the best solution we have.

          1. Nially

            Well “third world” is an objectively racist term, so there’s that.

            More generally, if you’re pretending not to hear the dog whistles in his “It’s their own faults for being lying economic migrants” bullshit, there’s little helping you.

  4. Mulch

    The biggest indictment of this ‘system’ is that there are kids in school who have known nothing but these direct provision facilities their entire lives.
    The right to work needs to be extended due to the fact the system is completely broken. If the system ever gets to a point whereby the processing time is in the region of six months, then maybe there is a case to be answered.
    What Francis Fitzgerald has given as a reason to deny this right is shameful. The state of our economy should have nothing to do with it.

    1. jim


      But six months? Seems an overly extended period to me. Don’t see why it can’t be done in…6 weeks perhaps.

  5. ABM's bloody underwear

    Not saying this is a solution, just wondering if this situation is possible or would be allowed?
    To qualify, I know very little details of Direct Provision in Ireland.

    Asylum seeker in Direct Provision makes art/jewellery/whatever and sells it online through somewhere like etsy and gets enough money to live with a bit more dignity?
    Is this scenario just straight out forbidden?
    Because if not, those in Direct Provision could make the stuff and those in Ireland (and abroad) wishing to help them out can purchase the items they make. No middle man, all money going directly to the creator of the items.
    This way, they’re not stealing anyone else’s jobs (as such an argument may be made), doing something constructive with their time and feeling that in some way they are in charge of their own destiny.

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