Tuesday, 7 March 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
33. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who have applied for entry or otherwise arrived here in the past 12 months; the number of these persons who have sought, obtained or have been approved for employment in this period; the effort, if any, being made to match the skills of these persons to the requirements of the labour force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6800/00]
266. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the degree, if any, to which skills assessment has been undertaken in respect of refugees and asylum seekers who are awaiting process of their claims; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7043/00]
The majority of persons immigrating to the State are either Irish or EEA nationals who are entitled to enter employment in Ireland without any prior authorisation – EEA consists of the EU states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Subject to certain exceptions, non EEA nationals require a work permit prior to taking up employment in Ireland. The work permit scheme is administered by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and decisions on applications are taken by that Department having regard to, inter alia, the skills or qualifications of the person concerned and the capacity of the applicant firm to recruit a suitable EEA national candidate. More than 6,000 such permits issued during 1999.
In the year to end-February, 9,096 persons applied for asylum in Ireland. In so far as the Deputy's question relates to the skills possessed by applicants for asylum, the position is that, while applicants may provide information relating to their profession and skills in the course of making their application, such information is not used in assessing the validity of the applicant's case for refugee status. I would emphasise to the Deputy that the purpose of the asylum system is to protect persons fleeing persecution; it has nothing to do with meeting skill shortages that exist in the labour force. With regard to those asylum applicants who are eligible to work under the terms of the Government decision of 26 July 1999, I understand that FÁS has made arrangements to assess the skills and job prospects of the persons in question.
 Persons who are recognised as refugees or given leave to remain having been in an asylum process may take up employment without the need to obtain a work permit and may access FÁS and related State services on the same basis as an Irish-EEA national. A total of 580 persons have been granted refugee status in the 12 months to end February and 42 failed asylum applicants have been granted temporary leave to remain during the same period.
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