On Tuesday the 30th May 2017, The Supreme Court ruled in favour of a Burmese man’s appeal over the legal ban preventing him from working or seeking employment while under asylum seeker status. This is major depart from the current legislative position that prevents asylum seekers from working while they are in the asylum process.

The application had come to Ireland in 2008, and was initially denied his application for refugee status. After appealing this decision, he lived in direct provision for 8 years, suffering from depression, and “almost complete loss of autonomy.” As he was not allowed to work while under asylum seeker status, he believed that this, combined with the €19 weekly allowance, negatively impacted on his self-worth, personal dignity and individual development. After a lengthy delay in the processing of his appeal, he was eventually granted refugee status last September 2016 after re-hearings before the Refugee Appeals Tribunal when the High Court had found errors in the way in which his applications were decided.

The case against the legal ban preventing this man, as an asylum seeker, from seeking or obtaining employment, was brought by Michael Lynn SC, against the Minister for Justice, with the Attorney General and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as notice parties.

While the Supreme Court unanimously found in favour of the man, the matter has been adjourned for six months so that legislature can be formed in direct consideration of the case. The court found the ban on asylum seekers searching for employment, as stated in the Refugee Act, IS fundamentally contradictory of the constitutional right to seek employment.

Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell stated that he believes that when there is no time limit for processing an asylum application, that does not only severely limit a person’s right to seek employment but “removes it completely.” He follows that the differences between citizens and asylum seekers does not justify the inequality of this matter, in that the latter is ultimately excluded from all possibilities of employment.

This decision will have major knock-on effects for all asylum seekers in many ways. It will force the Oireachtas to pass legislation permitting asylum seekers to work after a specific prescribed time period in the asylum process, bringing Ireland in line with other EU countries.

We celebrate this judgement which we believe will help towards ending the current unnecessary and unfair segregation of asylum seekers in Ireland.

We happily congratulate the individual applicants who took this case, and their talented legal team!