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Au pairs in Ireland should be protected under EU law

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Press Release

Thursday 12 May 2016

Welcoming this week’s approval in the European Parliament of consolidated rules governing access to EU countries by students, trainees and researchers from abroad, Nessa Childers said the new government should implement them fully and quickly to better protect au pairs.

Speaking after the vote in Strasbourg, which merged and updated common entry and residence rules for non-EU students, researchers and volunteers, Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, said:

“This Directive harmonises and clarifies the rights and conditions applicable to the ranks of young and talented people who come to our shores both seeking and bringing knowledge and experience.

“These rules range from lengths of stay, facilitate movement in the EU for further exchanges within those periods, family members’ rights to stay and work during their stay, among others.

“Our universities and businesses stand to gain from an environment where they, as hosts, and their guests, won’t miss out on opportunities for mutually beneficial exchanges because of uncertainty surrounding the applicable rules.

“But, crucially, in our Irish context, Member States can extend this new regime to protect au pairs, which is a first in terms of EU law.

“EU countries will soon have about two years to transpose it to national law, and the new Irish government should avail of the provisions on au pairs in full.

“We are talking about girls who are isolated and uprooted from abroad, misused as domestic workers and often as vulnerable as those.

“We cannot tolerate unscrupulous agencies that profit from this trade, carving a niche from the lack of decent and affordable care in the county.

“Au pairing is meant to provide immersion into a language and culture in a supportive family setting, in exchange for light household and childcare help, and it entails responsibilities for decent accommodation, living expenses and accident risks.

“Mediating organisations can be regulated by national law, a minimum pocket money threshold set, and au pair duties restricted to 25 hours , with at least one day off per week.

“We must stop giving this practice, and our own country, a really bad name abroad.”

ENDS

Note to editor

The new rules merge two existing directives (one on students and one on researchers) to ensure that:

  • students and researchers may stay at least nine months after finishing their studies or research in order to look for a job or to set up a business, which should also ensure that Europe benefits from their skills,
  • students and researchers may move more easily within the EU during their stay. In future, they will not need to file a new visa application, but only to notify the member state to which they are moving, for example to do a one-semester exchange. Researchers will also be able to move for longer periods than those currently allowed,
  • researchers have the right to bring their family members with them and these family members are entitled to work during their stay in Europe, and
  • students have the right to work at least 15 hours a week.