IRELAND (May 31, 2017) – Supreme Court strikes down law preventing asylum seekers from work

The ruling has the potential to significantly expand work opportunities for asylum seekers

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IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Ireland’s Supreme Court issued a 7-0 ruling Tuesday, striking down in principle the country’s ban on providing work authorization to asylum seekers.

What does the change mean? The ruling could have significant implications for asylum seekers who want to work in Ireland while their asylum applications are pending. The court ruled that because there is no limit on how long authorities can take with asylum applications, the ban on providing work authorization contravenes the constitutional right to seek employment. The court gave the legislature six months to address the issue.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Who is affected: Asylum seekers applying for work authorization in Ireland.
  • Business impact: The ruling has the potential to significantly expand asylum seekers’ access to the Irish labor market, though how broad an impact the ruling will have will become clearer once officials have a chance to rectify Ireland’s current ban.
  • Next steps: The legislature now has six months to adopt new legislation to comply with the ruling. 

Background: In the case, a Burmese man who came to Ireland sued to overturn a ban on providing work authorization to foreign nationals awaiting a determination on asylum applications. The court reasoned that because there is no limit on how long authorities can take with asylum applications, the restriction amounted to a complete ban on the right to seek work. “If there is no limitation on the time during which an application must be processed,” Justice Donal O'Donnell wrote in the ruling, then Ireland’s Refugee Act of 1996 “could amount to an absolute prohibition on employment, no matter how long a person was within the system.” 

BAL Analysis: Irish officials now have six months to come up with a fix to their current laws that would comply with the ruling, which has the potential to significantly expand work opportunities for asylum seekers. BAL will continue to follow the matter and alert clients to important developments.  

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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