Ireland has recently signed up to the EU directive on the asylum process.
We are looking at asylum seekers being granted the right to work.
In November 2017 the asylum seekers across Ireland got quite excited when they learned about the goverment’s plan to grant those who were not yet refused refugee status, and were still waiting for a decision after 9 months, the right to work.
I was asked to help with writing CVs, I helped one of my friends to set himself up on LinkedIn. The expectations were high.
And then it happened. The right to work for asylum seekers was announced, only with so many restrictions that hardly any person seeking asylum in Ireland will get access to the labour market.
It was devestating news, many people saw their hopes evaporate.
This is not about people just wanting to have something to do while they wait for the decisison on the asylum process, this is often about an absolute necessity for the many parents who have fled their countries and were separated from their families. Many of them are proud fathers who came here thinking they’d reunite quickly with their families after being granted the refugee status; little did they know that they’d be waiting for years in uncertainty.
Some of them are mothers who came here to look for protection and a safe and better life for their children; never thinking this better life would take so long to achieve.
These parents, husbands and wives have to send money to their families, they need to earn, they need to work.
The vultures out there are aware of that, and they offer work on the black market, often terribly underpaid and in dangerous circumstances.
I spoke to three people in this podcast that have agreed to talk about their experiences here; why they have to work, the type of work they do and the circumstances they work under.
The podcast starts off with a statement by Jennifer Dewan from Nasc.
Nasc was quite pleased that the Irish government decided to sign up to the EU directive on the asylum process. They were cautiously optimistic when it was announced that the asylum seekers would be given the right to work, but, just like all of us, extremely disapointed and upset with the announcement of the minister and with the many restrictions that make working practically impossible for asylum seekers.
Mr.X, talks about why he has to work, he is the head of the family and needs to provide. Mr X has worked in leaflet distribution where he would sometimes walk for 10 hours, without a break, without lunch, often in the rain and cold. For these 10 hours he would be paid between 35 and 50€.
He also briefly worked in construction (breaking down brick walls with a sledge hammer, sic) where he’d be picked up with some other asylum seekers in the morning, they’d be waiting at the entrance next to the security guard. They worked from 8AM till 6PM, with no protective gear, and were paid 40€ for those ten hours. Mr.X is an electro-mechanic engineer.
Ms A, is a young single mother, she has been waiting for a response to her case for 2 years.
Ms A has high hopes of working in a corporate environment or in a hospital environment. Her reaction to the announcement on the right to work is one of desperation. She says it is only normal that asylum seekers work on the black market in the full knowledge that they are being exploited, because they have no choice. And she believes the right to work has been set up just to tick a box wih the EU directives, but with the clear intention of making it impossible for anyone to access the labour market. Many women are trained in child care, health care, or would be happy working in domestic services, but they are not allowed to do so.
Mr Y needs to send money home for his sister who is seriously ill and needs constant care. Mr Y had to flee his country to save his own life. He now works repairing cars in a local garage where he says he is treated very badly. He is paid 20 to 25 € for every car he repairs, whether it takes 2 hours, 3 hours, or 3 days. He had high hopes for joining the legal labour market and wants to feel like he is contributing to the society that keeps him safe from persecution. Mr Y is a mechanic engineer. He went to university in his country but was told that his Degree is not valid here and he needs to start all over again.
The government has made it virtually impossible for those seeking protection in this country to work during their extremely long wait. On the other hand it is endorsing the black market, putting lives at risk and encouraging exploiters.
Many more residents of Direct Provision centers have agreed to speak up. More podcasts are coming. Please help us spread the word.
A national protest is being organised in Dublin on February 8th.
Here is the podcast.