Irish Refugee Council calls for an urgent review of the Refugee Applications Process

Posted On: October 17, 2012

 Irish Refugee Council calls for an urgent review of the Refugee Applications Process

 LAUNCH OF NEW REPORT: ‘DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE’

Full Copy of Report

The Irish Refugee Council has launched  its new report ‘Difficult to believe: the assessment of asylum claims in Ireland’  (Weds October 17th 2012). The report examines the asylum process in Ireland with a systematic review of documents which form the basis of what is known as the ‘Refugee Status Determination’ procedure in Ireland, in order to get a better understanding of why the majority of applications for refugee status in this country are refused. The UK acceptance rate is four times that of the average in Ireland. The evidence obtained in this study suggests that the process itself is responsible and, particularly where the Tribunal is concerned, there are reasons to believe that there is a ‘culture of disbelief’ that informs the approach that some Tribunal Members take.

Demonstrating credibility is one of the most difficult tasks faced by an asylum applicant. The research highlights the challenges that persist within the asylum adjudication process for those seeking protection in Ireland.

The CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, Sue Conlan said,What disturbs me about our findings is the fact that many people who appear to have legitimate claims appear not to be receiving a fair examination of their claim and are as a result being denied protection. This report brings into the public domain critically important information by making publicly available credibility assessments by the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. I hope that we will now see changes to the asylum system, particularly in the appeals process, and that there will be realisation that the consequences of an error in the asylum adjudication process may threaten the liberty, security and even the life of an asylum applicant. We must have transparency and public scrutiny of the asylum process as a matter of urgency.”

Launching the report, Professor Rosemary Byrne,Director of the Centre for Post Conflict Justice, Trinity College, Dublin said: “There is cause for grave concern about Ireland’s protection record for refugees.  This research provides a critical insight into very straightforward and cost effective ways the asylum system can, and should be, strengthened to ensure that those coming to Ireland with a well founded fear of persecution in their country of origin can be guaranteed a fair assessment of their claims.”

 

 Notes for the Editor:

  • From the Introduction: In 2011,135 people were accepted as refugees in Ireland after going through the asylum process. This was 5% of the applications that were decided that year either by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. This was less than half the average in the European Union. 5 By contrast, the number accepted in the UK for the same year was just over 1 in 5 of the applications decided that year or 22.7%, more than four times the average in Ireland. The low acceptance rate in Ireland has led some to question the way in which the Irish system operates and to the assertion that there is a “culture of disbelief” amongst decision makers.
  • From the Introduction:
  • From the Foreward by Professor Siobhan Mullally: “The information presented in this Report is often deeply troubling, suggesting there is considerable potential for error. In one case, for example, a Refugee Appeals Tribunal member is reported as having dismissed an applicant’s account of rape as a ‘fabrication’ intended to enhance the asylum claim. In dismissing the credibility of the applicant’s claim, the Tribunal Member commented that the account of rape had not been included in her questionnaire and was not credible. The Report notes, however, that a review of the applicant’s questionnaire and screening interview reveals that these events had been recounted by the applicant and moreover were accurately summarised in the ORAC decision. It is ‘difficult to believe’ that such an oversight could occur in the asylum process and that an applicant’s testimony of a traumatic experience could be so summarily dismissed.”
  • From the Foreward: “As this Report recognises, many of the challenges that are now faced by asylum applicants bubble beneath the surface, less likely to raise the grand conceptual debates that for so long preoccupied asylum adjudicators. Instead, it is the day to day assessments of credibility or availability of protection that function as the primary gatekeepers in asylum adjudication. Assessing credibility requires adjudicators to cross many barriers – cultural socio-economic, religious, and geographical. The adjudicator is required to position herself or himself in the place of an asylum applicant, with whom very little of life’s experiences are shared.”