New asylum regulations ‘will speed up application process’
Move affects 3,800 people seeking subsidiary protection
Alan Shatter: had a strained relationship with the judiciary
The Government has introduced new procedures aimed at speeding up the processing of 3,800 asylum seekers ’ cases.
Regulations came into force today that govern the determination of applications for subsidiary protection, a status given to people who do not meet the legal definition of a refugee, but face a risk of serious harm if deported.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the new interim procedures for dealing with applications had the potential to reduce the length of time people were waiting for decisions on their applications.
He said the regulations would address an area of “immediate difficulty” ahead of a new streamlined applications process expected to come into force next year.
The move was welcomed by the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, but criticised by some asylum campaigners as a “missed opportunity”.
Many people seeking refugee status or subsidiary protection have spent years waiting for their applications to be fully processed.The average length of time that residents have spent in the State’s much-criticised direct provision system is around three years and eight months.This is because applications for subsidiary protection may only be lodged after a person had been refused refugee status.
The new regulations provide for applicants to be interviewed as part of the first instance investigation of their application. In the event of a rejection following the first instance investigation of their case, applicants will have the opportunity of an appeal.
Under the regulations, responsibility for the processing of applications for subsidiary protection – both new and existing – will transfer from the Minister for Justice to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.
Appeals will be dealt with by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Both of these offices are statutorily independent in their functions and have substantial experience in the area of asylum applications investigations and appeals.
Mr Shatter said he hoped the procedures would ensure that new applications for subsidiary protection could be processed within eight months.
He said the processing of applications for international protection was a “solemn and complex task” that did not always lend itself to achieving speedy outcomes. However, once the new arrangements have bedded down, Mr Shatter said he anticipated that “very significant inroads” would be made into caseloads by the end of next year.
Sophie Magennis, the UNHCR’s head of office in Ireland, said the development had the potential to “significantly improve” the situation of many people who have been waiting long periods to have their applications processed.
But Fiona Finn of Nasc, an Irish immigrant support centre, said the move was a lost opportunity to introduce a more streamlined and efficient asylum and protection system.
“This creates further and costly delays in an already overburdened system that results in families waiting for years on end in totally unsuitable conditions,” she added.