Ireland’s Catholic bishops have praised a Supreme Court decision in the country that will allow asylum seekers to find work while their status is being decided.
The Republic of Ireland’s supreme court ruled May 30 that laws which indefinitely prohibit asylum seekers from gaining employment were unconstitutional.
The case was brought by a Burmese refugee who was in the asylum system eight years before he was given refugee status. He maintained that being allowed to work was vital to his self worth, dignity, and development.
The judgement considered the right to seek employment as “part of the human personality”, which cannot therefore be restricted to citizens.
Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore, chair of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace, said, “The words of the Court are powerful and profound, and speak to what we should aspire to: ‘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.’”
He wrote in a June 5 statement that the decision reflects the values of Pope Francis, who has asked all countries for a “generous openness” to migrants, at a time when much of the world is experiencing what has been called a refugee crisis.
Millions of asylum seekers from the Middle East and elsewhere have poured into the European Union and other regions, seeking refuge from violence and economic hardship.
Countries throughout Europe have struggled to accommodate the large number of asylum seekers. Ireland has promised to accept 700 refugees this year, though the migration of some of these has been stalled due to vetting negotiations.
Bishop McAreavey noted that the physical and psychological welfare of migrants has been a concern of the bishops of the Council for Justice and Peace, which has publicly raised issues related to Direct Provision Centres, the Republic of Ireland’s system to care for asylum seekers.
“Removing the ban on work means that people in Direct Provision Centres are more likely to integrate and be part of a rich, diverse and yet more unified society; asylum seekers will recover their self-respect through work and we all will benefit from their skills and gifts,” Bishop McAreavey said.
He encouraged the government to “see the great merit – moral, civic, cultural and economic – of allowing migrants who are already in Ireland to participate and contribute to our society here. I would encourage policymakers to balance the Government’s duty to manage the resources of the State with the parallel duty to treat asylum seekers humanely.
The bishop noted that asylum seekers and their families have a “dear wish to integrate and contribute to the common good of Irish society.”
“I am grateful to the Supreme Court for reminding us, during these unsettled and cynical times, of what we must be about as a culture, namely, a society that both protects the person and allows his or her talents to flourish,” he concluded.
The ban on asylum seekers working was based on several laws, and can be corrected in a number of ways. Thus the court decided to wait six months to allow for executive and legislative fixes before making specific orders.