Asylum seekers access to labour market (2014)


Ad-hoc query on asylum seekers access to labour market (pdf, 308 kB)


Most of the MS who responded to this AHQ expressed the concern that allowing asylum seekers the opportunity to seek paid employment while their case awaits determination is likely to encourage unfounded asylum claims. Concerns about case backlogs, the need for speedy processing in the light of managed migration system were mentioned by several MS.

In some cases the opportunity to work is given after a certain amount of time, often 12 months (even though the directive indicates 9 months), and in a number of cases, only if the processing time is longer than 12 months and the delays cannot be attributed to the applicant – such as not providing ID documents.

Since Norway is not a member of the EU, the mentioned Directive, 2013/33/EU, has not entered into force yet in Norway.

However, such standards as referred to in Art 15 in the Directive, are already partly covered in the Norwegian Aliens Act Sect. 94, although certain conditions have to have been met by the applicant, namely,

- An Asylum interview with the applicant has taken place.

- There is no doubt concerning the identity of the applicant, and

- There is no information in the case concerning a possibility of taking the applicant back to another country Because of these stipulations, it can take some time before the applicant can get access to the labour market in Norway. Notably, since there is an Identity condition (applicant has to be able to prove their identity), and very few applicants are able to identify themselves sufficiently, Norway’s experience is that only a small number of applicants actually receive a permit to work in Norway prior to receiving an answer to their application.

One of Norway’s arguments for these practices differs from the vast majority of the MS who responded.  The Norwegian authorities hope that the possibility of obtaining a work permit will provide an incentive for applicants to produce valid identity documents. As far as we can see, no one else has made this connection.

Most MS are concerned about exploitation of the asylum institution for the purposes of gaining employment in countries where they otherwise would not be granted a work permit. For that reason, most MS have stipulated a certain time period before an asylum applicant is granted access to the labour market. There was also voiced concern about the exploitation of asylum seekers by non-bona fide employers, slum landlords or human traffickers and that there is little point in engaging asylum seekers if the duration of employment is too short. Concern was also voiced about social dumping in relation to low-skilled jobs. It is assumed by the majority of respondents  that the shorter the wait to gain access to the labour market, the greater the “pull” effect for applicants with primarily economic interests. Norway seems to be the only respondent to this AHQ who explicitly requires a certain ID in order to gain access to the labour market.

Greece maintains that asylum seekers have immediate access to the labour market, but have very strict stipulations for gaining that access; a temporary work permit can be issued to an asylum seeker provided that:

  • a labor market survey has been conducted and there are no unemployed Greeks, EU citizens, recognized refugees or legally resident third country nationals who are interested to work in the particular field in question and who also are specialized in the field for which the work permit has been applied for.

Given the labour market in Greece, this must certainly limit actual access to job though no further details are provided.

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