Dáil Éireann - Volume 534 - 12 April, 2001
Written Answers - Asylum Applications.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
67. Mr. Dukes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will allow all asylum seekers who have been here for more than six months and who are awaiting a final determination of their application for refugee status the right to seek work; the number of asylum seekers who fall into this category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7882/01]
Mr. O'Donoghue Mr. O'Donoghue
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I refer the Deputy to my replies to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 61 and 152 of 7 February 2001 and No. 88 of 15 November 2000 which dealt with the issue of the entitlement of asylum seekers to enter into paid employment.
 The Government, as an exceptional measure, agreed on 26 July 1999 that those asylum seekers who had been in this country for more than 12 months, who were still awaiting a final determination of their application for refugee status and who had been compliant with their obligations as asylum seekers should be given the right to seek work. The arrangement applied to those who sought asylum here up to 26 July 1999, as soon as they crossed the 12 months threshold.
In December 1999, the Government decided to remove the requirement that an employer must obtain a work permit before employing asylum seekers covered by the 26 July 1999 Government decision. The Government also decided that each eligible asylum seeker should be issued with a letter confirming entitlement to work for presentation to potential employers and my Department arranged accordingly. To date, over 2,650 such letters have issued. As I previously informed the House, it is not proposed to allow asylum applicants who are not covered by the aforementioned July 1999 decision to take up paid employment pending a final decision being made on their applications.
I have been informed by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner that the number of asylum seekers who have been here for more than six months and who are still awaiting a first stage decision is 8,792. I have also been informed by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal that there were 2,503 appeal cases in hand at 31 March 2001. Approximately 2,300 of these appeals relate to applicants who made first stage applications for refugee status more than six months ago.
On 5 July 2000 the Government announced approval for the immediate recruitment of 370 additional staff for asylum case processing and appeals and to deal with consequential repatriations with the possibility of more staff being made available in the future. This will allow a number of strategic objectives to be achieved, namely, greatly increasing processing capacity, including appeals, to deliver more speedy decisions in relation to applications for refugee status leading, in due course, to the completion to finality of the processing of all new asylum applications within a six month period which will ensure that those who qualify clearly as refugees will receive decisions on their applications much more speedily and that applications where there is clearly no basis for qualification will also be dealt with on a faster basis; the elimination of the asylum applications currently in hand as soon as possible; and dealing with the increased numbers of repatriations which are expected to arise in respect of persons whose applications for refugee status are refused.
The recruitment process for these additional staff is almost complete. A total of 130 of the 370 posts are to be filled in an atypical fashion, that is, a special competition organised by my Department. Interviews for these posts, at clerical officer  and executive officer level, have recently taken place and successful candidates will be offered the positions in the next few weeks. Additional accommodation is also in the process of being sourced.
Question No. 68 answered with Question No. 53.
Dáil Éireann 534 Written Answers Asylum Applications.