Retired High Court Judge Brian McMahon has urged the Minister for Equality, Immigration and Integration Mr David Stanton to be speedy and generous in his implementation of the right to work for asylum seekers. He was speaking at an Open Day organised by Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland, at the Balseskin Reception Centre in Dublin on 31 May 2018.
“Being able to work and be productive is so important for any individual,” he said as he urged to Minister to adopt a truly generous position on the right to work for asylum seekers. At present, asylum seekers must find a job that pays a starting annual salary of at least €30,000 and their employer must show they were unable to find a suitable Irish or EU citizen to fill the position. In addition, asylum seekers are not allowed to apply for a job in more than 60 different areas, including hospitality, healthcare, social work, childcare, general care services, marketing, sales, administration, textiles, printing, housekeeping, food and construction.
The Balseskin Reception Centre hosts an innovative mental health and well-being pilot project reaching out to hundreds of asylum seekers on their arrival in Ireland. The Fáilte project in the centre was launched last year by the Irish Jesuit Refugee Service as a response to research in a report by Judge McMahon that highlights mental health as one of the key issues for asylum seekers and among protection applicants.
As part of the Fáilte project, the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, Mr David Stanton, launched a newly developed JRS Ireland resource, which provides move-on information for Balseskin residents who will be dispersed to accommodation centres in 34 locations across Ireland. This resource aims to assist dispersed asylum seekers with integrating into their new communities.
The sun shone down on all present in the model reception centre in Finglas, North Dublin. The Open Day was organised by Aíne Lambe, JRS Ireland’s inter-cultural project worker. It provided the 300 residents of the Balseskin centre with the opportunity to be welcomed by and to link in with over thirty NGO community organisations and support groups. Throughout the day, residents could be seen talking to representatives from the many groups present, including local Finglas services and the Gardaí. They were able to learn about the wide range of services available to them onsite and in the local community. The ongoing work and contribution of both volunteers and asylum seekers, who are active participants in the Finglas and wider Dublin community while living at Balseskin, was celebrated and recognised by both the Minister for State David Stanton and Eugene Quinn, Director of the Irish Jesuit Refugee Service.
The Balseskin Fáilte project delivered by JRS Ireland in partnership with the HSE National Social Inclusion Office and Balseskin Reception Centre provides a range of targeted mental health and wellbeing supports early in the asylum process for recently arrived applicants onsite. This project supported more than 500 asylum seekers in Balseskin Reception Centre over the past 12 months.
Eugene Quinn, JRS Ireland National Director, said: “The Balseskin Fáilte project is an innovative and proactive response to well-documented mental health issues encountered by asylum seekers in Direct Provision. This approach of frontloading supports and information for protection applicants immediately after arrival will yield long term benefits, through better mental health and enabling asylum seekers to live with greater dignity.”
Bryan McMahon, who is also Chair of the Working Group on the Protection Process, spoke warmly about the Open Day and Balseskin Failte project. “Poor mental health and isolation experienced by asylum seekers was highlighted during the Working Group deliberations,” he remarked: “I am delighted that a model of support in Balseskin has been developed that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing and also forges strong links with the local community. The presence of so many service providers from the local community tells residents that, while at times they may feel invisible in Ireland, they are not forgotten.”
He especially commended the ‘tranquility garden’ in the centre. It was once a football pitch but is now beautifully landscaped with bushes, flowers, paths and seating.
Ms Diane Nurse, HSE National Lead for Social Inclusion also welcomed the project: “The holistic nature of the Fáilte project in supporting improvement of mental health and well-being of a very vulnerable group arriving on our shores offers positive opportunities for relief, reflection and strengthening of coping strategies. I commend all involved in this innovative and inspiring project.”