Law Society points out family barriers in asylum Bill

Letter to TDs says group is concerned about protections for vulnerable children

Some NGOs working with asylum-seekers and migrants,  have already said the Bill is rushed and called for it to be withdrawn to give more time for debate.  Photograph: David Sleator

Some NGOs working with asylum-seekers and migrants, have already said the Bill is rushed and called for it to be withdrawn to give more time for debate. Photograph: David Sleator

 

Serious concerns have been expressed by the Law Society of Ireland about new legislation that will limit the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees to be united later with their families.

In a letter to TDs, Law Society president Simon Murphy said the International Protection Bill, which finishes its passage through Dáil Éireann on Thursday, “marks a significant and crucial step in bringing Ireland’s protection system into line with the rest of Europe”.

Highlighting its improvements, Mr Murphy said it would streamline rules by creating a single application procedure for asylum or protection.

However, he said the Law Society was disappointed that a number of its key recommendations were not accepted.

The society’s concerns are set out in a letter, marked “private and confidential”, from Mr Murphy to the members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, dated December 2nd. It has been seen by The Irish Times.

Limited letter

The society notes the Bill says separated children will be referred to the Child and Family Agency “as soon as practicable”. Given the vulnerability of these children to trafficking, the society has “serious concerns” any delay could “heighten” their vulnerability.

It also notes that there is no appeal mechanism for such children who want to challenge an assessment of their age.

“This raises serious concerns around proper access to justice and the right to an effective legal remedy,” the latter states.

Proper access

A lack of “statutory regulation and quality control” in the critical area of communication is concerning. The society regrets that interpretation is to be provided to applicants, according to the Bill, in a language they “may be reasonably supposed to understand”, according to the latter.

“Communication must be effective to ensure that a person can in fact reasonably understand the language used,” says the society.

The process for applying for permission to remain, which places a “general ongoing obligation on the applicant . . . to submit relevant information to the Minister”, places an “unbalanced and impractical onus on applicants and their solicitors, which in turn has serious implications for effective legal representation and applicants’ proper access to justice,” says the letter.

Appeals absence

A number of NGOs working with asylum-seekers and migrants, including the Irish Refugee Council and the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland, have already said the Bill is rushed and called for it to be withdrawn to give more time for debate.

Changes proposed by the Government’s own working group on reform of the asylum process, including reform of the direct provision system and the right to work for applicants who have been in the process for nine months or more, were rejected.