At today's conference – 'Asylum Seekers Right to Work: Implementing the Supreme Court ruling', leading law experts, business leaders, economist and human right NGOs joined force with asylum seekers and refugees to say that Ireland must do more to integrate asylum seekers into society and Irish businesses will play their part by encouraging them to integrate into the workforce. They came together to speak out their support for asylum seekers in Ireland to have the right to work, following a High Court ruling requiring the government to change the current outright ban. This conference was covered by Irish Times and asylum seeker Christiana Obaro's speech was published on the day and drew wide attention from many readers and broadcasters.
Former Supreme court Judge Catherine McGuiness highlighted the reality that people came to Ireland with great skills and abilities that decay while being denied the right to work."The difficulties faced by people living in Direct Provision are well known, and these are exacerbated by the length of time that many have remained in their uncertain position. The outright ban on such people seeking employment leaves them deprived of the self-respect that comes from self-support and must now in the interests of justice and decency be ended” She said.
Emily Logan ,Chief Commissioner of Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, cited UN Committee – "right to work essential for realizing other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity".
Virgin Media CEO Tony Hanway said, “Virgin Media considers diversity and inclusivity to be of vital importance because we know that these are factors which add to our competitiveness and better reflect the current realities of Irish society. The net economic contribution and unique energy that migrants bring to the workforce and wider society is evident worldwide. Ireland must do more to integrate asylum seekers and businesses can play their part through encouraging integration into the workforce.”
Dr. Liam Thortorn of the School of Law, UCD delivered an excellent overview of the potential impact and limitations of the Supreme court decision, and compared the right to work for asylum seekers in selected EU juristictions, and reflected of the need to ensure a right based "freedom to work" in Ireland. He concluded, “the Oireachtas now has a choice when it comes to recognising asylum seekers right to work. Down one path, will be a highly restrictive regime that will continue to, in effect, exclude the vast majority of asylum seekers from exercising their freedom to work. Down the other path, is the ability for the Oireachtas to give strong recognition to principles of human dignity, personal self-sufficiency and freedom, by granting the right to work for asylum seekers that is as extensive as possible."
David Joyce, Equality officer of the Irish congress of Trade Union, highlight that decent work for all is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which the Irish Government played a very important and positive role in developing.
Economist Jim Power said, “Immigrants play a key role in the Irish economy and account for 15.8 % of total employment in the economy. They have a broad sectoral spread and are essential to the proper functioning of the Irish economy. Non-Irish nationals, including refugees and asylum seekers, will inevitably be called upon to play an even more important role in the future as the economy moves towards full employment and as skills shortages arise. It makes no economic or social sense to prevent people from participating fully in the economic and social life of Ireland. An adequate supply of labour with the requisite skills is a key element of the competitiveness of the Irish economy and needs to be nurtured.”
In the afternoon, former asylum seekers and refugees shared their experiences and insights about work and integration. Neil McDonnell, CEO of Irish Small and Medium Enterprise gave advices to perspective entrepreneurs from asylum seeker and refugee background advices on starting a business in Ireland, and offered to help with business networking.
Today's conference – 'Asylum Seekers Right to Work: Implementing the Supreme Court ruling' – is organised by City of Sanctuary Dublin in association with the Irish Refugee Council and the Immigrant Council of Ireland. Special thank you to Therese McKenna (Storyburst.org) for volunteering live tweeting throughout of the day.