Two new countries to be added to ‘safe’ list amid plan to speed up asylum applications

Algeria and Botswana to be added to list of safe countries of origin for international protection applicants

Algeria and Botswana will be added to the list of “safe countries” of origin as part of wider Government plans to subject more international protection applicants to faster processing times.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will bring a memo to Cabinet which will also outline plans to clamp down on people who arrive into Ireland but who already have refugee status in another European state.

The move comes as immigration tops the list of issues getting the attention of voters in the past month, according to public sentiment tracking by Ipsos B&A.

Ms McEntee is expected to tell Ministers that she plans to increase the number of international protection applicants who will be subjected to fast processing. She will on Tuesday sign orders to expand the list of safe countries by two so that international protection applicants coming from those countries will have their cases considered and decisions issued within a maximum of 90 days.


The accelerated processing will come into effect from Wednesday.

Safe countries are places where generally there is no persecution, torture, inhumane treatment or conflict. It is understood that the Minister examined conditions in a number of other countries and then decided to add the further two to the existing list.

The following countries are currently designated as safe countries of origin: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and South Africa.

The Government is hoping the new measures will have an immediate impact. In November of 2022, fast processing was put in place for applicants from the eight safe countries.

Within a year of accelerated processing being introduced, applications for asylum from the previous list of safe countries had decreased by 38 per cent. For those who did arrive from these places, rates of refusals were high.

First instance refusals were running at 81 per cent, with applicants receiving decisions within 65 days of arriving here. An average of 78 per cent of those who appealed had their appeals rejected. Ms McEntee will tell Ministers that she believes expanding the level of quick decision-making will lead to further decreases in efforts to use the asylum system here as a “backdoor” to economic migration.

She is also due to outline fresh plans to clamp down on those who already have refugee status in another European state. They will be entered into an inadmissibility procedure which will also now be subject to fast processing. This will also come into effect from Wednesday.

If a person receives a recommendation from an international protection officer that their application is inadmissible, they currently receive a written report with reasons and are then entitled to appeal that recommendation to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT). It is understood the Government wants to speed up this process significantly.

It comes after a new measure of public sentiment introduced by The Irish Times and Ipsos B&A on Monday revealed that immigration is topping the list of issues grabbing voters’ attention. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents to the survey cited immigration issues when asked what they had noticed about what the Government had done recently. This is in contrast to last July when immigration was mentioned by just 6 per cent of voters.

The vast majority of immigration comments – 81 per cent – were negative, with just 17 per cent positive and 2 per cent neutral.

Separately, Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney will bring a memo to Cabinet topping up the amount of money available for the humanitarian schemes announced after storms Babet and Ciaran last year. Cabinet originally approved €5.3 million to help affected businesses. This will now be topped up by an additional €5.7 million bringing the total fund to €11 million. The terms for individual business remains the same.

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Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times