Tribunal rejects 92% of refugee appeals

 

THE REFUGEE Appeals Tribunal rejected 92 per cent of the appeals it ruled on last year, which marks a fifth successive annual rise in the rejection rate for asylum appeals.

Despite increasing the number of appeals decided in 2009, long delays in the tribunal’s decision-making process mean six asylum seekers are still awaiting decisions for appeals lodged in 2004.

The tribunal affirmed 2,987 decisions of the Refugee Applications Commissioner in 2009 and set aside 266 decisions. Almost half the successful appeals against decisions not to grant refugee status (50) were lodged by Iraqis.

The tribunal overturned 7 per cent of decisions not to grant refugee status to people from Moldova and 6 per cent of decisions to people from Zimbabwe and DR Congo. It accepted 3 per cent of appeals lodged by Nigerians and Pakistanis respectively, according to the tribunal’s 2009 annual report released yesterday.

The tribunal decides appeals of those asylum seekers whose applications for refugee status have not been recommended by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

Over the past five years the percentage of successful appeals decided by the tribunal fell from 13 per cent in 2005 to 8 per cent last year. In 2009 the tribunal upheld 266 of the 3,253 appeals.

The number of decisions issued by the tribunal increased by 39 per cent to 3,426 last year. It also reported an 11 per cent fall in the number of new appeals to decisions submitted by asylum seekers during 2009, down to 2,714 last year, from 3,050 a year earlier.

The number of “live appeals”, which are still awaiting decisions from the tribunal, stood at 2,311 at 31st December 2009, a 31 per cent fall on the number pending a year earlier. The report shows six asylum seekers, who lodged their appeal in 2004, are still awaiting a decision. A further eight individuals who lodged appeals against decisions in 2005 have not received decisions from the tribunal yet. The number of live appeals dating from 2006 is 87; 2007 is 393; 2008 is 500; 2009 is 1,316.

The tribunal said the median length of time taken to process and complete substantive 15-day appeals in 2009 by asylum seekers was about 43 weeks. Under the accelerated appeal process the median length of time to process an appeal was about nine weeks.

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) said last night it was “exceptionally concerned” about the long delays facing many asylum seekers who appealed decisions.

“It just isn’t appropriate for there to be this type of delay – not for the State, the applicant or even the general Irish population, who want to see things decided in a timely manner,” said Sue Conlon, chief executive of the IRC.

She said the high rejection rates also gave cause for concern that Ireland may not be living up to its international responsibility to properly assess and accept those in need of protection.

The cost of the tribunal last year was €7.4 million. Some €4.5 million was spent on legal fees, while €1.67 million was spent on fees paid to tribunal members.