197. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of permission to work and attend college for persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53541/17]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): If an application for asylum or subsidiary protection has been made in the State, for confidentiality reasons it is not the practice to comment on such applications and the applicant or their designated legal advisor should contact the International Protection Office directly either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone to the IPO Customer Service Centre at 01 6028008 or in writing to Customer Service Centre, International Protection Office, 79-83 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2. Similarly, the International Protection Appeals Tribunal operate an email which can be contacted by individuals with any queries regarding their appeal application - email@example.com.
Section 26 of the International Protection Act 2015, provides that it is an offence to identify an international protection applicant. The offence is punishable by summary conviction to a Class A fine or a term of imprisonment of 12 months or both.
The Supreme Court judgment in the case of N.V.H. v. The Minister for Justice and Equality found, on 30 May last, that in an international protection system with no temporal limits as to when the application process will be concluded, an absolute prohibition on the right to work for international protection applicants is contrary to the right to seek employment under the Constitution. The Court recognised that this is a matter for the Executive and Legislature to consider and accordingly adjourned consideration of the Order the Court should make for a period of six months. The Court in making its Final Orders agreed to a stay on the execution of the Order until 9 February 2018. My officials are actively engaged in ensuring compliance with the Order.
Following the approval of Government, an Inter-Departmental Taskforce was established in July to examine the wide-ranging implications of the judgment, and to consider appropriate solutions. The Taskforce was comprised of representatives from nine Government Departments, along with the Office of the Attorney General. On 21 November 2017, the Government approved the recommendations of the Taskforce, including the key recommendation that the State should respond to the judgment by opting-in to the EU (Recast) Reception Conditions Directive (2013/33/EU). The EU Directive provides for many matters including, of course, access to the labour market for international protection applicants.
The Minister for Justice will move the required Motions to seek approval in the Houses of the Oireachtas for participation in the Directive at the earliest opportunity. Following the approval of both Houses, the opt-in procedure with formal notifications to the European Council and the European Commission will commence. The European Commission then has four months from receipt of this letter to confirm our participation. During these four months, the State will be required to demonstrate to the Commission how it is compliant with each Article in the Directive.
The Government has agreed to establish an Implementation Group to oversee the opt-in procedure and the practical arrangements for facilitating access to the labour market for eligible applicants. The Group will be drawn from membership of the Taskforce, supplemented by the participation of relevant operational areas in the Department of Justice and Equality and other Departments as required.
In relation to access to further and higher education, a Pilot Support Scheme was introduced by the Department of Education and Skills in 2015 for students who are in the Protection System or at the Leave to Remain (but not deportation order) stage. This was one of the recommendations contained in the report by the Working Group on the Protection Process which was chaired by former High Court judge, Dr. Bryan McMahon. The scheme provides supports to qualifying students which are similar to those available in the Student Grant Scheme. Following a review of the Pilot Support Scheme in 2016, a decision was made to continue the scheme for the 2017/18 academic year and to undertake a further review in 2018. To qualify for the pilot scheme, prospective students have to meet a number of criteria, including a requirement to:
- Meet the definition of a protection applicant or a person at leave to remain stage (other than those at the deportation order stage);
- Obtained their Leaving Certificate;
- Have been accepted on an approved Post Leaving Certificate course or an approved undergraduate course;
- Have attended a minimum of five academic years in the Irish school system and have been part of an application for protection or leave to remain for a combined period of 5 years prior to the 31 st of August of the first year of their course.