268. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans in relation to allowing persons seeking asylum here the right to meaningful, unrestricted work while their application is being considered; when such plans will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28066/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): From 9 February 2018, when section 16(3)(b) International Protection Act 2015 was struck down by the Supreme Court, until the date of entry into force of the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive, any eligible International Protection applicants can access the employment permit system on the same basis as other non-EEA nationals. The interim arrangements for the short period prior to the opt-in enables those seeking international protection to access the labour market through the Employment Permit Acts. Employment permits are the remit of the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation and I have no remit or authority in this area.
Following Government approval, I used my executive powers to introduce an administrative scheme to allow (from the date the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition), for an additional access to the labour market not provided for under the employment permit system. This also allowed eligible applicants to activate their qualification for such access which will continue under any new scheme to be announced. This current interim scheme provides for eligible applicants for international protection (i.e. those in the system for over nine months without a first instance recommendation), to engage in self-employment. As on 21 June 2018, the total number of applications for self-employment received under this scheme is 752, of which 523 have been granted.
The arrangements that are currently in place are interim arrangements pending the completion of the process to opt-in to the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive. The opt-in process has proceeded quickly and, on Tuesday 22 May 2018, the decision of the EU Commission confirming Ireland’s opt in to the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive was adopted. The decision was published in the Official Journal the following day. The implementation group, chaired by the Department of Justice and Equality and with representatives from all relevant Departments and Agencies, is finalising the details of the more permanent arrangements, which will include less restrictive access to different categories of work than the employment permits regime which applies in the interim period. It is expected that the more permanent and broader labour market access arrangements will be in place upon the completion of the transposing measures from the end of June this year.