Shatter criticised for revoking refugee status of 57 people


The Refugee Council of Ireland has criticised Minister for Justice Alan Shatter for taking refugee status away from 57 people.

Ireland gave very few people refugee status – just 3.3 per cent of applicants in 2011 – and the motives behind pursuing the small group of people had to be questioned, the council said. “One of the overriding impressions is that there is a determination for Ireland to be seen as an unattractive place for people seeking protection,” said Sue Conlon, chief executive of the council said.

The Minister confirmed in a parliamentary question that 57 people had their refugee status revoked since he took office in March 2011.

“The main ground that arises is where it has been found that the applicant provided false or misleading information,” he said.

Ms Conlon said giving false information should not be a reason to take away protection from an individual. “They may well have lied at one point but the question is if we had known that information would it have made any difference to the original claim?” she said.

Brophy solicitors dealt with one case where a man from Darfur had been given refugee status but when he tried to have his family brought over to Ireland he was found to have changed information on how he got to Ireland. The Minister wrote to him saying he proposed taking away his refugee status. After a letter from the firm the Minister withdrew the proposal.

Cases where the Minister attempted to revoke refugee status because of criminal convictions are also being questioned by the refugee council. “A criminal conviction doesn’t mean you are not a refugee,” said Ms Conlon.

An individual wishing to appeal the decision to take away their refugee status must do so in the High Court during a hearing which can last several days. Ms Conlon said the money spent to fight such cases could better be spent on putting resources into the processing of asylum claims, which can take years.

“There seems to be a determination to undermine the security given to the few people given refugee status. It is difficult to see where the public interest lies in it,” she said.

Ireland has a low rate of recognition of refugees by EU standards – 57 people were given refugee status up to November last year; 61 were given status in 2011 and just 24 in 2010.

Yes Minister, no Minister: How the court ruled in two cases

The High Court last March turned down the Minister’s application for refugee status to be taken away from Morris Ali, a national of Sierra Leone, granted refugee status in May 2002. He was convicted in 2008 of possessing €70 worth of cocaine. The Minister said his refugee status was being taken away since he was a danger “to the security of the State” or that he constituted “a danger to the community”. The judge turned it down because the Minister supplied incorrect evidence.

Ms Justice Maureen Clark in November upheld the revocation of refugee status of Patrick Adegbuyi, a Nigerian national, granted asylum in July 2007. The Minister said Mr Adegbuyi’s status was being taken away because he had returned to Nigeria to pursue a court case that “would indicate that you no longer require international protection”.

The judge said Mr Adegbuyi had “clearly” re-established himself in Nigeria and had the protection of that state.