Asylum seekers are entitled to access the labour market, without limitations on the nature of employment they may seek. In terms of the Reception Regulations this access should be granted no later than nine months following the lodging of the asylum application. In practice, asylum-seekers are authorised to work immediately.
Malta issues ‘employment licences’ for asylum seekers, the duration of which varies from three months for asylum seekers whose application is initially rejected to six months for those whose application is still pending. Fees are payable for new licences (€58) and for every renewal (€34).
In practice, employers are deterred from applying for the permits because of their short-term nature and the administrative burden associated with the application, particularly in comparison to the employment of other migrants.
Asylum seekers who are not detained face a number of difficulties, namely: language obstacles, limited or no academic or professional background, intense competition with refugees and other migrants, limited or seasonal employment opportunities. Asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Issues highlighted include low wages, unpaid wages, long working hours, irregular work, unsafe working conditions and employment in the shadow economy.
A recent report from UNHCR Malta highlighted the challenges encountered by migrants in employment. The lack of clarity or information and administrative challenges when applying for work permits is said to constitute a significant obstacle, along with the difficulties associated with recognition of qualifications and skills, and language and cultural barriers. Furthermore, the report documented the situation of beneficiaries with protection in another Member State, especially Italy, who come to Malta and who are denied the possibility to work. The report also confirmed that, amongst beneficiaries of international protection, female participation in the labour market is considerably low.
UNHCR also noted that many service-providers such as unions, recruitment agencies and employers’ associations, are extending their services to refugees and have recognised the importance of reaching out to them.
A number of vocational training courses are available to asylum seekers, some also targeting this specific population group.