‘Chilling’ new direction on asylum and immigration cases

Solicitors indicate ‘grave concern’ about their capacity to comply with new measure

Several barristers voiced their concern to Judge Richard Humphreys when he heard the asylum list in the High Court on Monday. File photograph: Getty Images

Several barristers voiced their concern to Judge Richard Humphreys when he heard the asylum list in the High Court on Monday. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A new direction on asylum and immigration cases, issued by the President of the High Court, will have “a chilling effect”, giving rise to “significant access-to-justice barriers for migrants and their families”, legal practitioners involved in asylum cases have said.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly issued the new direction on December 17th requiring solicitors to produce a significant amount of additional information when making applications.

The information required includes “every statement/representation made by the applicant or by any other member of his/her family . . . to any immigration body in Ireland or other jurisdiction”. It also requires them to produce details of criminal or civil proceedings in which their clients have ever been involved in the State or elsewhere.

The direction was circulated to some practitioners by email on December 27th during the vacation and requires solicitors not only to produce documents for future cases, but also for all pending judicial review proceedings by this Friday.

Immigration solicitors are planning to write to president of the Law Society Patrick Dorgan seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the direction, which they say will have “a chilling effect” on practitioners, giving rise to “significant access-to-justice barriers for migrants and their families”.

‘Broad-ranging obligations’

A draft letter to Mr Dorgan says solicitors are “gravely concerned” about their capacity to comply with the direction.

They say a section on ex parte (one side only) applications imposes “exceptionally broad-ranging obligations”.

Applicants and their solicitors will have to swear separate affidavits and solicitors must state the religion of the applicant and that their affidavit was “sworn with the appropriate religious book in our personal presence”, the letter adds.

One source said the entire list of immigration lawyers was “in revolt”.

A number of barristers voiced their concern to Judge Richard Humphreys when he heard the asylum list in the High Court on Monday. They included Colm O’Dywer SC, Patricia Brazil and Garry O’Halloran.

Ms Brazil said a number of solicitors were concerned it was “simply not possible” to comply with parts of the direction by January 18th given the extensive inquiries that would have to be made, including to the UK and other jurisdictions.

Mr O’Halloran said it was a “resource issue” and the level of information being sought was going to have a daily knock-on effect on solicitors.

The judge allowed an extension of time for the production of some affidavits to February 1st. He said the matter had been “building up for a while” and that the direction aimed to ensure the court was not “misled” by applicants.