Roadblocks on asylum seekers’ work journey

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NEW legislation, which will allow asylum seekers living in direct provision the right to work does not go far enough, many living in the system believe.

Recent changes to legislation allow asylum seekers living in the Direct Provision to apply to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) for permission to work.

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People in the system are at different stages in their applications, Ibrahim Sorie Kabba of Limerick’s Right to Work movement explained. “People who had first instance decisions, they were rejected and they are at appeals level, those people are not eligible to work. Those people have been in the system for four, five, six years,”

The Sierra Leone native has been granted his right to work after 9 months living in the system, but says he is continuing the campaign for those who have not been granted the right to work.

Mr Sorie Kabba told the Limerick Post, “Those people have been forced to live a life of institutionalisation, in which they have been sitting in those centres not being able to do anything. They cannot work, because the meaning of what being an asylum seeker is, is being edited to satisfy a few individuals who are new in the system.”

Many people living in Direct Provision feel as though their lives are just passing them by. Adel Bahar, an aeroplane technician from Bahrain with more than 25 years experience in his field says “all you can do is wait”.

Adel has been living in Knockalisheen for more than two years now, and was originally granted the right to work in February 2018. Unable to raise the funds to pay for the work permit, he has since been denied his first instance decision and now waits on an appeal. The recent change to legislation means Mr Bahar no longer has the right to work.

“I would like to be optimistic, but the process takes a long time,” said Adel.

The Bahranian national added, “If people are working while waiting for appeal or their first interview, you would never imagine how much pressure it would take away from them.”

Donnah Vuma, Zimbabwe, has been living in direct provision with her children for four years, “I only realise it’s four years when I look at my children, and how much they’ve changed in between that time, and how much they’ve grown.”

Ms Vuma noted her youngest child was now eight-years-old, four when he arrived in Ireland, she feels part of their “childhoods have been robbed from them”, seeing how much she was unable to provide for them over the four years.

“How much I haven’t been able to provide for them, to have, you know, a proper childhood, then it really starts to hit me,” Donnah told the Limerick Post.

“You have people who are genuinely running away from things. I myself am not an economic migrant, I had a good job back home– a very good one– I had a family life, I had everything I was looking forward to, I never had the intention of coming to Ireland, there was never a day I would think of coming to Ireland.”

Bulelani Mfaco told the Limerick Post it wasn’t safe where he lived, “In South Africa, a lot of gay people have been murdered, several of them were murdered around me in Khayelitsha where I lived. And so, I felt unsafe that I might be the next one.”

He described to the Limerick Post how he was detained in a shopping centre, where he was held by security guards and was humiliated and degraded. He finds himself now in Knocklasheen Direct Provision Centre, where for some time he shared a room with a man who he describes as homophobic:

“When he learnt I was gay, he said ‘I don’t like that shit’, the second time he made a comment that boys are supposed to be with girls, and I was placed in a position where I had to justify why I exist as a human being, and that’s just deeply unsettling, especially if you come from a country where you are fleeing because of persecution on the basis of your sexual orientation.”

“We had a woman who was a nurse in Cameroon, she wasn’t allowed to work in Ireland for five years, she was stuck in a direct provision centre,” Bulelani said.

“I was a PHD Student, I was working. I suddenly found myself in a position where I couldn’t work.”

Even though many will be granted the right to work, those involved in the Right to Work movement believe people living in direct provision will meet further hurdles.

Bulelani Mfaco, who was granted the right to work says he will find it difficult to get a job in his field because of some restrictions. With a background in public administration, Bulelani says he is not permitted to work in the civil service:

“I was trained to work as a civil servant in my country. I have an honours degree in public administration, I was doing a PhD in public administration. I can’t work in the civil service in Ireland, I tried to apply for a job in the university but we are not allowed to work for the university as they are funded by the state.”

“There are certain barriers, Employers don’t know asylum seekers now have the right to work,” said Donnah Vuma, from Zimbabwe who has been living in direct provision with her three children for almost four years.

“Or there are other challenges where you maybe need a license, and I can’t have that, or you have to have a bank account to get paid, and I can’t open a bank account,” she added.

Asylum seekers receive a proof of address and identification from the centre they live in, but the identification card states it is not an official form of identification.

“I’m living in a centre being funded by the government, which gives me a valid proof of address and the banks cannot use it. So you are telling me I’m not staying there,” Ibrahim asks, “I don’t have a passport, you can’t accept my proof of address. Who am I? I am nobody. I’m just an asylum seeker on the streets of Ireland nobody wants to deal with. And nobody cares about.”