Council of Europe adds to growing calls for reform of Irish asylum procedure

Posted On: December 13, 2012

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The Council of Europe is the latest body, along with the Supreme Court, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the UNHCR, to criticise the design of the Irish asylum procedure.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, wrote[1] to Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence in November 2012. Muižnieks commented on the excessively lengthy asylum procedure that results in many asylum seekers staying in accommodation for years, despite that system being designed for stays of only six months.

In October 2012 in Okunade v Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform & the Attorney General[2] the Supreme Court of Ireland criticised the lack of a single procedure for determining refugee and subsidiary protection claims. Clarke J commented that: “it is appropriate to emphasise the desirability of there being a single and coherent structure within which all relevant decisions are made as a result of a single process.”

In November 2012 the Court of Justice of the European Union held in M. M. v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland[3] that the failure of Ireland’s procedure to allow a subsidiary protection applicant to be heard again after the refugee application was inconsistent with EU law.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, when visiting Ireland in October 2012 commented that he was in dialogue with the Irish government over improvements in the Irish asylum system in particular the simplification of procedures.[4] He also commented on the traumatic effect of delays in the Irish asylum procedure on persons seeking protection.[5]  In March 2011 the UNHCR stated that the delayed introduction of the single procedure continued to have a serious impact on the human rights of those within the process at present and on any new asylum-seekers entering the system.[6]

Minister Alan Shatter’s response[7] to the Council of Europe’s concerns was that there is an intention to publish the revised Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill as soon as possible in 2013, subject to other legislative commitments under the EU/IMF programme for financial support.

Even if published in early 2013 the Bill is unlikely to include the system of support and accommodation (which is purely administrative) and will essentially only address new applications not those who are already in the system.  The Bill will also take time to pass through the legislative process, particularly if it covers such a wide array of issues as its previous incarnations.  In addition, the steps needed to give effect to the legislation will take time to be introduced, further delaying the needed changes to the design of the asylum procedure.  Change by way of statutory instrument may be a more effective and quicker tool for introducing a single procedure for determining subsidiary protection and refugee status.

 

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[1] https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.InstraServlet?command=com.instranet.CmdBlobGet&InstranetImage=2196535&SecMode=1&DocId=1960410&Usage=2

[2] http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IESC/2012/S49.html

[3] http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=130241&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=240816

[4] http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/1012/1224325187869.html

[5] http://www.rte.ie/news/morningireland/player.html?20121011,3412552,3412552,flash,257

[6] UNHCR, Submission by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Compilation Report – Universal Periodic Review: Ireland

[7] https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.InstraServlet?command=com.instranet.CmdBlobGet&InstranetImage=2196541&SecMode=1&DocId=1960438&Usage=2