Ireland’s asylum system: ‘A two-tier system has clearly emerged’

State failing commitment to give sanctuary to 4,000 people fleeing war, poverty – report

Tents housing asylum seekers on the Greek island of Chios. Photograph: Jennifer Hough

A two-tier asylum system is emerging as Department of Justice officials prioritise refugees relocating here from Greece and Turkey over "ordinary" asylum seekers, according to a report.

While refugees coming here under the EU relocation programme are being fully processed in about eight to 12 weeks, asylum seekers face 19-month delays just to have their first interview, according to the Jesuit Refugee Service.

A report by the service, Sharing Responsibility, Saving Lives, on the EU and Irish response to the migrant crisis, is published on Monday.

It says the State has failed to meet its 2015 commitment to give sanctuary to 4,000 people fleeing war and poverty and currently in camps in Greece, Italy and Turkey, by the end of 2017 and would not even meet it by the end of 2019.


Director of the service Eugene Quinn said: "Ireland has mirrored other EU member states in falling far short of its targets. Operational difficulties and the impact of the housing crisis must be acknowledged.

“Nevertheless, at the end of 2017 Ireland has delivered 1,570 places out of 4,000, with a further 525 deferred. Adding in publicly announced targets for 2018-19, Ireland will fail to reach the original commitments by the end of 2019, more than four years later.”

Obstacles to meeting commitments include disagreements with Italian authorities about the right of Irish officials to conduct assessments in Italy and the housing crisis here.

Granted asylum

When a new “single step” asylum system was introduced, streamlining the asylum application process in January 2017, the Jesuit Refugee Service advocated that those asylum applicants who had been in the system for more than five years be granted asylum in order to clear some of the 4,000-person backlog.

“This proposal was underpinned by the principles of equity, policy coherence and procedural efficiency . . . The [Jesuit Refugee Service] welcomed the subsequent decision to prioritise the ‘majority of applications for international protection’ on that basis.”

However, it says, ability to do this is “heavily dependent on the State’s effectiveness at recruiting additional resources, which to date have not been fully secured”.

It says “a two-tier system has now clearly emerged” in the processing of different international protection cases.

“Regular asylum seekers are waiting far longer for their protection claims to be processed with delays exacerbated as the scarce resources are directed to prioritise relocation cases.

“While most cases under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme are processed within eight to 12 weeks, asylum seekers arriving in 2018 face on average a 19-month wait to the date of first instance interview.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times