I am delighted at the decision by the Supreme Court last Tuesday requiring a change to the law that prohibits asylum seekers from working. The words of the Court are powerful and profound, and speak to what we should aspire to: “This damage to the individual’s self-worth, and sense of themselves, is exactly the damage which the constitutional right [to seek employment] seeks to guard against.”
This is an issue which is close to the heart of Pope Francis who has appealed to all countries for “a generous openness” which recognises how migration can enrich our lives. In his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) Pope Francis describes, “how beautiful are those cities which overcome paralysing mistrust, integrate those who are different and make this very integration a new factor of development!”
Over recent years the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has publicly raised issues related to Direct Provision Centres. Our main concern has been the physical and psychological welfare of individuals and families in these centres.
I would urge politicians to see the great merit – moral, civic, cultural and economic – of allowing migrants who are already in Ireland to participate and contribute to our society here. I would encourage policymakers to balance the Government’s duty to manage the resources of the State with the parallel duty to treat asylum seekers humanely. Asylum seekers and their families have greatly suffered and it is their dear wish to integrate and contribute to the common good of Irish society.
Removing the ban on work means that people in Direct Provision Centres are more likely to integrate and be part of a rich, diverse and yet more unified society; asylum seekers will recover their self-respect through work and we all will benefit from their skills and gifts.
I am grateful to the Supreme Court for reminding us, during these unsettled and cynical times, of what we must be about as a culture, namely, a society that both protects the person and allows his or her talents to flourish.
- Bishop McAreavey is Bishop of Dromore and chair of the Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace.
- The role of the Council for Justice and Peace is to support the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in promoting the social teaching of the Church and to advise on issues of social concern, both nationally and internationally.
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