Press Statement: 28th January 2021

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) is appalled by the decision to reduce the waiting time to 6 months. There is no plausible justification for keeping people out of work. In May last year, Catherine Day who chaired the advisory group that was reviewing Ireland’s asylum reception system recommended that asylum seekers be allowed to work within 3 months from the date of applying for protection in Ireland; that the permit is issued in the form of a GNIB/Irish Residency Permit Card; the permit is valid for 12 months and renewable; and it is issued to all asylum seekers in Direct Provision who haven’t received a final decision on their asylum claim. Catherine Day further called on the government to give asylum seekers access to bank accounts and driving licences.

The political parties who were negotiating government formation at the time committed to implementing the interim recommendations from the Catherine Day Advisory Group in the Programme for Government. Today, the Minister announces changes that undermine that commitment; asylum seekers have no access to driving licences and some banks still refuse to open bank accounts for asylum seekers, a breach of EU law. Considering that the announcement is far from what the government’s expert group recommended and government’s own commitment in the programme for government, it is a betrayal of trust.

It is hard to see how the government will end Direct Provision whilst maintaining restrictions on accessing the labour market. The government’s job is to, as far as possible, break down structural barriers for marginalised groups. There is nothing in Irish or EU law that prevents the government from exempting asylum seekers from requiring a work permit. Sweden has done it and Ireland can do it too.

It is also important to remember that ethnic minorities in general experience racism in the Irish labour market when it comes to recruitment and selection. The Economic and Social Research Institute tells us much. And so does UCD’s Geary Institute.

Thus government shouldn’t be imposing restrictions on asylum seekers and trapping their children in poverty. Not so long ago the government refused to increase the weekly allowance for asylum seekers when the Irish Refugee Council and others called for the increase in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. If the government is serious about integration of asylum seekers and ending poverty, they will not only lift all the restrictions on the right to work but provide support for asylum seekers to actually enjoy their right to work and restore their dignity.

MASI reiterates its call for immediate access to the labour market; a work permit exemption that is issued in the form of a GNIB/Irish Residency Permit card; that is renewable every 12 months until the bearer has an alternative or is no longer in the State. This is not difficult to achieve. The Minister for Justice can get this done tomorrow by a mere amendment of the relevant Statutory Instrument is she so wishes.


About MASI – the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is a grassroots organisation based in Ireland. We are people who are or have been in the asylum and direct provision system in Ireland, working and advocating together for justice, freedom and dignity for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Our focus is on the Right to Education and the Right to Work for all people seeking asylum, on the complete abolition of direct provision and an end to deportations.

Enquiries: Bulelani Mfaco – +353 89 474 2911