Asylum seekers should get decision within 12 months

Report says asylum seekers should be allowed work after nine months in system

The final report was brought to Cabinet this morning by Minister for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin but has yet to be approved by Government. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

The final report was brought to Cabinet this morning by Minister for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin but has yet to be approved by Government. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Clear differences have emerged between Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and her junior minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin on the implementation of a new report on reforming the asylum process.

The report – from the Working Group on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers – recommends that new asylum seekers have a decision on their application within 12 months and the right to work after nine months.

It also recommends that more than 3,000 people who have been in the system for five years or more should be “fast-tracked” to residency.

Mr Ó Ríordáin described its publication yesterday as a “Yes for equality moment”, adding: “We have a moral obligation now to move from the publication to implementation.”

Ms Fitzgerald, also speaking at its publication, described it as “food for thought”.

“There will be cost implications. There are savings as well in having a more efficient system, but clearly if you want to process the applications in a quicker way there are resource implications.

Resources

She said, however, she was “absolutely committed to tackling the lengthy delays in the protection system.”

The working group, chaired by Mr Justice Bryan McMahon, included representatives from Government departments, NGOs working with asylum seekers and refugees, and a core group of asylum applicants and refugees.

The cost of implementing the recommendations will be €135.4 million over five years, but savings of more than €195 million would accrue if recommendations on speeding up the legal process are implemented, it says.

Ms Fitzgerald said she would immediately initiate a dialogue with Government departments and agencies affected by the 170 recommendations in the report.

It says the most pressing issue for the almost 8,000 people in the system is the length of time they are in it, with 55 per cent there for more than five years.

The report says “as a matter of principle” no one should be in the system for more than five years.

The key recommendation is to replace the current system where applications for asylum, subsidiary protection and leave to remain are processed consecutively, with a single procedure where all potential applications are processed in a single step.

The enactment of the International Protection Bill, which will underpin most of the other recommendations, should happen “as a matter of urgency”.

Right to remain

For those already in the system more than five years, about 3,350 people, the report recommends they have their cases fast-tracked and either be granted residency or have their deportation order revoked.

The report calls for improvements to living conditions, including that: the weekly allowance be increased from €19.10 to €38.74 for adults, and from €9.60 €29.80 for children; all families should have access to cooking facilities and private living space; single adults should be able to apply for a single room after nine months and be offered one after 15 months, and should have the option of cooking; the right to work for people who have been in the system for nine months or more should be provided “when the single procedure is operating efficiently”.