Legal time frames for asylum applications should be introduced – campaigners

Researchers say an online portal should be created for asylum seekers

The online portal suggestion was not included in the government White Paper on ending direct provision, which was published in February. Photograph: Frank Miller

The online portal suggestion was not included in the government White Paper on ending direct provision, which was published in February. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Statutory time limits for decisions on asylum applications should be introduced, according to researchers from the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway.

Five LLM research students made a submission to the acting Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys on Monday, calling for legislation to create clear time frames for each stage of the international protection process.

The submission also stated that the current delays are causing serious distress to asylum seekers, and Ireland is failing to fulfil its human rights obligations as a result.

The submission advocates for the insertion of statutory time limits for decision-making into the International Protection Act 2015, which currently governs the asylum-seeking system in Ireland.

According to the researchers, the median processing time for a first instance decision from the International Protection Office is 17.6 months.

The median time for a decision on an appeal is a further nine months.

“As a result of lengthy and uncertain timelines, asylum seekers who are awaiting a decision experience higher levels of psychological distress and face an increased risk of mental illness,” the submission states. “From a human rights point of view, this practice is unacceptable.”

The submission recommends that anyone who has been in the system for longer than two years should be granted permission to remain.

This was recommended in the Catherine Day report but was not included in the government White Paper on ending direct provision, which was published in February.

The White Paper recommended that those seeking protection should be housed in own-door accommodation within the first four months of their arrival in Ireland.

The submission states that this four-month time limit should be put on a statutory footing.

By six months, the person should have their first instance decision from the International Protection Office (IPO), the submission says.

If the applicant appeals a negative decision, a ruling should be made by the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) within another six months.

Lack of transparency

A Ministerial Decision should be granted one month after the relevant Tribunal has made a recommendation.

There is also a lack of transparency in the system, according to the submission. “In Ireland, there is currently very little communication between the IPO or IPAT and the international protection applicants themselves on the progress of their application ... this creates a situation in which international protection applicants are left in the dark and have no idea when they will receive their decision.”

To combat this, the researchers say an online portal should be created for asylum seekers.

This should include an interactive timeline where the progress of their application is clearly visible and explained.

The portal should also include information on appointment times, dates, and what documentation and information will be required.

The submission also calls for an auditing mechanism to ensure quality decision-making, and for interpreters to be accredited and receive specific training on the asylum process.

Further resources and staffing for the Legal Aid Board is also recommended.

The submission was authored by Sarah Donnelly, Anna Ledwith, Amanda Morrison, Emma-Louise Steiner and Semiha Elif Yararbas, with guidance from Evgeny Shtorn of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI).

“This year we approached the issue of time-frames, which is something that affects absolutely everyone in the asylum process, and leaves an unbearable trace in our memories,” Mr Shtorn said. “No one will be able to give me back that time. It needs to be addressed as soon as possible, and I’m so glad we have built this strong and robust argument that will be hard to ignore.”