UN refugee chief urges simpler asylum process


IMPROVING PROCEDURES for asylum-seekers in Ireland would reduce the current backlog, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said in Dublin yesterday.

The former Portuguese prime minister said he was engaged in “a very constructive dialogue” with the Department of Justice and Equality on the issue.

He said this dialogue was “in relation to potential improvements in the Irish asylum system, namely the possibility, through legislation, of the simplification of procedures”.

He was also seeking to “improve the quality of the decisions”.

The rate of recognition in Ireland for asylum or refugee status was one of the lowest in the European Union.

“There is a recognition of that by the Government. I think that a certain number of measures have already been taken and we are discussing others and I think it’s already improving.”

He added: “In Ireland, I would say that the tradition is of a very strict approach to these things and what is now being discussed is how to have a more nuanced approach.

“Our concern is the improvement of the quality of the decision. We believe that if the quality of the decision improves, probably the rate will increase.”

The schedule for his two-day visit, which began on Wednesday, included meetings with Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, and Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter.

He said he also wanted to express “deep gratitude and appreciation” of the fact that Ireland, despite its economic difficulties, had maintained “very meaningful” support in terms both of finance and personnel to his office and its work.

This was “in the best Irish tradition of human rights and humanitarian action”. Mr Guterres said that, as of last Tuesday, 311,500 people from Syria were either registered or seeking registration as refugees in the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq as a result of the conflict there.

However, his office estimated the number of Syrians who had fled at “more than half a million people in total”.

There were three other “acute refugee crises” at the moment, in Mali, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in addition to “chronic crises” in Afghanistan, Somalia and other places.