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On October 4, 2017, more than 17 years since the direct provision system (DPS) and the employment ban for asylum seekers were put in place, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan announced that adults in DPS will soon have access to the labour market. In other words, they will have the ‘right to work’.

This decision by the government follows the Supreme Court ruling (2017) by the seven judge court that unanimously agreed the absolute employment ban was “in principle” unconstitutional but had adjourned making any formal orders for six months to allow the legislature consider how to address the situation.

The right to work was – and still is – one of the key demands of all ‘End Direct Provision’ campaigns by asylum seekers, various solidarity groups and NGOs. Hence, we should see this announcement potentially as a great step forward, but while doing so we should also be cautious till we see the full details of the scheme and what exactly it will mean in practice for asylum seekers.

It may be too soon yet to celebrate the victory.

The minister telling the Seanad that "there is no ‘credible alternative’ to replace current system" is an obvious sign that the government has no intention to end the DPS.



Although the announcement today by the government comes as a response to the Supreme Court ruling but we should not ignore the fact that tireless campaigns and rallies over the past number of years have brought the unspoken horrors of DPS and the demands of the asylum seekers to public arena. Politicians and the main stream media could not ignore it anymore. The Supreme Court ruling came as a great addition to years of struggling to end the DPS and it forced the government to act.

All activist, campaign and solidarity groups deserved to be congratulated for their efforts. We haven’t seen the end of DPS yet but looking back the years, we have achieved great momentum in the campaign.

At this point we mustn’t relax and put further pressure on the government to end the whole miserable system of direct provision (#EndDP).

All trade unions in Ireland should make a very serious effort to welcome the asylum seeker-workers into trade unions and give them initially fee-free membership options. Through trade unions, the solidarty between asylum seekers and non-asylum seeker workers should be further advanced.


The call to #EndDP always induced demands such as #Right2Work, #Right2Education and #Right2Residency, #Right2SocialProtection and #NoDeportations.

We don’t know the details of what the government is planning to do for the right to work but we must insist on a right that has no ifs and buts attached. 

There should be no restrictions placed on what jobs people can take.

There should be no limitations such as only allowing part-time work or limited hour work.

Self-employment also be allowed.

The right to work is a great step forward but it comes after 17 years of entrapment, institutionalises living and forced poverty. The issues of DPS are not limited to right to work.



Asylum seekers are not entitled to enter 3rd level education unless they pay non-EU fees. For anyone in DPS it was simply impossible to fund their college education. This isolated further the asylum seekers and condemned them potential future unemployment and poverty due to lack of higher education options.

We must continue to demand the right to free 3rd level education for asylum seekers.


Majority of the 4500+ people in DPS (1,600 children) have been in the system for many years. There are some people who are in the system for more than 7 years. Their lives are in limbo. As judges and former ombudsmen/women called it, the DPS is a horror story in continuous development.  Ireland should listen to the calls by many and give the asylum seekers in DPS the full right to residency. People, children already in the system for so long have suffered and waited enough. We should demand the right for residency for those people.


Historically Ireland has a very low first-instance acceptance (granting refugee status) rate. It is way below many of the other EU countries and the EU average. Depending on the year up to 95% of all first time applications can be rejected and people are forced to limbo situations in DPS. Ireland’s compassion is not a shining example.

(See Direct Provision – An Indictment )

The Direct Provision System (DPS) is the main feature of a legally very complex, bureaucratically and politically non-transparent, commercially profit and private business driven, at the core inhumane and institutionally racist asylum system in Ireland. To understand the DPS we need to understand the role it is playing in Ireland’s asylum process.

With the complex system and the harsh refusal rates followed by DPS comes the issue of deportations. Many of the asylum seekers come from extremely difficult and dangerous places. Deportations send these people directly into the hands of oppressive regimes danger, war and sometimes death.

As we saw in numerous occasions, deportations take away children away from education and break up families.

Wes should continue to call on the Irish government not to deport asylum seekers and give them a chance to rebuild their lives here in Ireland.


Irish laws and common-culture is said to be family friendly. Family has an important place in the Irish society. But asylum seekers and their separated families don’t have the same level of recognition and respect. In many cases years go by without family members seeing each other. Children grow without their fathers or mothers. We should continue to demand for the right for family reunifications. Irish government must put in place procedures for asylum seekers to bring their family members here.



Memet Uludag
Convener, United Against Racism  | Facebook

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