Government could save millions by introducing single procedure say human rights groups

Posted On: September 13, 2013

Millions of euro could be saved if the Government introduces an effective unified procedure as part of planned changes to the assessment of Subsidiary Protection claims say human rights groups.

Under the ‘Subsidiary Protection’ system people can ask to remain in Ireland because they would be at risk of being killed, tortured or the victim of human rights abuses if they were deported, but do not meet the narrower definition of a refugee. Ireland is the only EU country which requires applicants to apply for and be refused refugee status before they can request Subsidiary Protection. This slows down the system, condemns applicants to alarmingly lengthy stays in Direct Provision accommodation and potentially prejudices applications. 

Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, says: “The recent decision of the High Court means it is no longer feasible to continue with a split procedure for making protection claims.  Although, we welcome the news that the procedure for assessing subsidiary protection will, for the first time, include an oral interview and the possibility to appeal, a single procedure is vital to reducing the costly delays which have characterised the Irish protection system.

“In practice decisions on subsidiary protection have relied heavily upon previous negative decisions on the initial asylum claim: a single assessment would not only remove the taint of the earlier refusal but it would prevent duplication.”

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “People have a right to international protection from serious human rights abuses. Ireland has a duty  under international law to provide a fair, independent and prompt system for determining applications for asylum and subsidiary protection . The system here is an absolute shambles.

The High Court in Belfast recently refused to transfer an asylum seeker to the Republic because it found ample evidence of physical and mental health issues for asylum seekers condemned to lengthy stays in direct provision. A single assessment means applications could be processed faster, reducing the amount of time individuals and families are kept in direct provision.

“The Government cannot kick this to touch by pointing to the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill as a solution. This Bill has been in the pipeline for six years and stalled for three years. It must go ahead with separate legislation to put in place a single assessment system.”

The Government is revising the procedure for the assessment of subsidiary protection claims following criticisms about a lack of basic fairness in the procedure from the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Irish High Court.

Just 30 people were granted subsidiary protection in Ireland last year, giving Ireland one of the lowest grant rates in Europe.  The latest figures from the Reception and Integration Agency show that asylum seekers spend on average 45 months in State-funded Direct Provision accommodation.  845 people have spent in more than six years in that system.

The cost of the Direct Provision system in 2012 was €62.3 million.

-ENDS-

Further information:

Sharon Waters, Irish Refugee Council                     085 8585 510 / Sharon@irishrefugeecouncil.ie

Justin Moran, Amnesty International Ireland      085 814 8986 / jmoran@amnesty.ie

Notes:

  •    Details of the Government’s proposals for reform of the subsidiary protection procedures are available at: http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/Revision%20of%20Subsidiary%20Protection%20Application%20Procedures
  •  In January 2013 Mr Justice Hogan, ruled that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence is required to reach his own view on the subsidiary protection claim submitted by reassessing the applicant’s credibility, and cannot simply rely on the decisions reached in the earlier asylum claim.  The judgment followed Justice Hogan’s referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on a point of law in Case C-277/11, MM v. Minister for Justice, Equality and Law ReformThe CJEU commented on the unique split system in Ireland and determined that there was a breach of a fundamental right to be heard.
  •  Since October 2006, Ireland, in line with other EU states, has provided foreign nationals who fear “serious harm” if returned to their country with an opportunity to submit an application for what is known as ‘Subsidiary Protection’.  Unlike the asylum process, this is a paper application without an interview before a decision or an appeal if refused.  Unlike other EU states, Ireland’s Eligibility for Protection Regulations which transpose the Directive, created a system whereby subsidiary protection claims are submitted at a different stage and decided separately to the asylum claim. 
  •  “Serious harm” is defined to include the death penalty or execution, torture or inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment or a serious and individual threat from indiscriminate violence in a situation of international or internal armed conflict.