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Innocent Iroaganachi, Photograph by John Kelly

Business owners urged to give asylum seekers a chance

WITH many businesses re-opening this week, owners are being urged to “set aside prejudice” and “unfounded generalisations based on fears” when it comes to job applications by asylum seekers.
Innocent Iroaganachi, who is living in direct provision in Ennis, wants to alleviate what he says are “suspicions” being held about employing asylum seekers insisting that asylum seekers “work hard and put in their best”.
He explains, “Prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, the Clare Public Participation Network (PPN) and Clare Local Development Company (CLDC), during an interaction with asylum seekers in Ennis, mentioned that as a result of some doubts, most business owners seem to be sceptical about employing asylum seekers. Some even think that it is illegal for asylum seekers to work in Ireland, as such they do not want to get into trouble with the government.”
He outlines that many asylum seekers have received work permits during the lock-down, having attained the required nine month waiting period, after which an asylum seeker is qualified for the right to work.
“With this permit an asylum seeker is entitled to be employed or start their own private businesses. In other words, businesses in Clare are likely to see some lovely women and men knocking the doors of many business premises seeking to be hired.”
As well as calling for greater awareness among business owners, Innocent hopes to clarify misconceptions regarding hiring asylum seekers.
Currently the work permit lasts for six months, however Innocent explains that this can be renewed. “As such nothing stops businesses and firms from hiring asylum seekers on permanent basis and not just on part-time. The renewable clause need not discourage business owners from even hiring on permanent basis, which in all honesty, the State should consider extending.”
He continues, “There is also the case of business owners assuming that they do not want to be responsible, for any unlawful behaviour of the asylum seekers they hire. This is a wrong presumption, because more than anything, an asylum seeker is responsible for him/herself, and is well aware that lawful behaviour in the community and in the workplace, contribute to the positive response they can get from the state. As a result of these, asylum seekers work hard and put in their best, to make sure they do not inflict harm to businesses that hire them and to communities that are hosting them.”
According to Innocent, some business owners have expressed concerns that asylum seekers cannot communicate fluently in English and they do not have the required experiences, qualifications and training.
“This is an excessive generalisation, because for the period of nine months asylum seekers waited for their work permit, most of them through various Education Training Board (ETB) centres, Local Development Companies, and volunteer organisations, take part in English language classes, for those who cannot speak English fluently, and undergo lots of training related to jobs they intend to apply for.”
He outlines just some of the courses undertaken which includes: Information Communication Technology and computer courses; manual handling; Safe-Pass; security; food safety management training; health care; hospitality and culinary courses.
All of this is in preparation for eventual employment in Ireland, in addition to the professional experiences and academic qualifications they had from their respective home countries.
“Business owners need to know that asylum seekers are not seeking to be hired for just the fun of it. They are actually doing so to provide for themselves, to prove to the state and their host communities that they can be useful and in return show appreciation, to the state that offered them protection by way of the tax they pay. It will be great for business owners to set aside prejudice, and evaluate asylum seekers applying to be hired, by the content of their character, by what they can contribute and not by unfounded generalisations based on fears.”

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