THE NUMBER of asylum judicial review applications passed the 1,000 mark last year for the first time, The Irish Times has learned.
There were 1,024 such applications in 2007, according to unpublished figures from the Courts Service. This compares with 909 in 2006 and 758 in 2005. In 2006, the total number of all other judicial review applications came to 626, so those related to asylum matters outnumbered all the others put together.
The Courts Service figures do not reveal the agencies against which the applications are issued. There are three agencies involved in asylum judicial reviews, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the Refugee Applications Tribunal. The figures also refer to the applications made, not to outcomes, and outcomes in any given year can refer to applications made in previous years.
According to figures supplied to The Irish Times, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner received 440 judicial review applications in 2007, while 4,200 asylum applications were finalised. Some of these judicial review applications related to decisions made in 2006. The number of cases against the office concluded in 2007 was 256, of which 67 were settled.
The number of new applications received by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service last year was 378. The number concluded was 309, of which 151 were settled. Again, the cases concluded did not all commence in 2007. The cost of judicial reviews to the service was €2.71 million.
These figures suggest that the balance, 206, of new applications were made against the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The number of judicial review cases concluded by that body in 2007 was 260, including cases begun in earlier years, according to figures supplied to The Irish Times.
The number settled that year was 193, again including some initiated in previous years. The tribunal paid out €4.29 million in respect of 190 cases in 2007.
According to the Courts Service figures, a total of 343 cases were settled, which falls short of the 411 combined figures from the three bodies. This may be due to some of the settled cases from earlier years being recorded in 2006.
Leave to apply for judicial review was granted in 263 cases in 2007 and refused in 56. A final order was granted in 24 and refused in 25. Thus judicial reviews were unsuccessful following a hearing in 68 cases in 2007, out of a total number heard of 368, with 343 settled without a hearing. Asylum judicial reviews are sometimes abandoned before they are heard.
In a statement on its figures, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner said: "Where ORAC is satisfied that there has been an error of omission in its procedures which might have had a bearing on the outcome of an investigation, in the interests of fairness and efficiency ORAC's policy is to reach a mutually agreeable settlement without delay." The total cost to the office of all judicial reviews was €1.125 million.
The cost incurred by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal was considerably higher, at €4.29 million for 2007. This may be due to cases taking longer to conclude.