Asylum-seekers face expulsion after decision

 

Hundreds of asylum-seekers face deportation following a Supreme Court decision yesterday. In a ruling with implications for many other applicants, the court held that a letter sent to three applicants by the Minister for Justice contained "adequate reasons" refusing them permission to stay in the State.

The appeal against High Court findings concerned three asylum-seekers who raised issues common to hundreds in similar cases.

The three had sought refugee status and were refused. Their appeals against those refusals were rejected. They then applied for leave to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds. These reasons were also rejected and the Minister notified them he intended to make deportation orders.

The asylum-seekers sought leave to review judicially the Minister's decisions but this was refused by Mr Justice Smyth in the High Court. The matter was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The appellants challenged what they described as a "formula letter" from the Minister which they alleged contained no proper, intelligible or adequate reasons for their deportation.

In all three cases, the letter stated: "The reasons for the Minister's decision are that you are a person whose refugee status has been refused . . . the Minister is satisfied that the interests of public policy and the common good in maintaining the integrity of the asylum and immigration systems outweigh such features of your case as might tend to support your being granted leave to remain in the State."

Mr Justice Hardiman, giving the judgment of the Supreme Court, said the invocation of the "common good" in Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 did not require or imply any opinion derogatory of the individual whose case was being considered. It simply entitled the Minister to have regard to the State's policy in relation to the control of aliens who were not, on the facts of their individual cases, entitled to asylum.

He said the three asylum-seekers, at the time they appealed to the Minister, were persons without title to remain in the State. The legislative scheme was that such persons might be deported.

He rejected submissions by the appellants that the Minister's decision took into account extraneous and unintelligible matter. Adequate reasons for deporting an asylum-seeker had been given in the Minister's letter, he said.

The asylum-seekers relied strongly on the requirements in Section 3 of the 1999 Act for the Minister to notify them individually not merely of the proposal to deport them but of "the reasons" for it. They claimed that being a person whose application has been refused was only one reason and that the use of the plural form "reasons" required there be another additional reason at a minimum.

According to this argument, said Mr Justice Hardiman, it would be impossible to deport a person whose application for asylum had been refused as manifestly unfounded so long as they could avoid giving the Minister any other reason to deport them. The judge said the applicants had not sought to challenge in any way the decisions of the competent authorities who refused their applications for asylum. They had then asked to remain in this State on humanitarian grounds.

These were persons whose applications for asylum had been rejected at first instance and on appeal. They lacked any entitlement to remain in the country save a right to await a decision on a request not to be deported.

The text of the Supreme Court ruling on the level of explanation Department of Justice deportation letters must provide is available on The Irish Times website, www.ireland.com