New refugee law could store up problems for the future, says Irish Refugee Council

Posted On: November 30, 2015

IMG_2487Media Release, 30 November 2015

The Irish Government wants the International Protection Bill, published on 19th November, to be on the statute books by the end of the year and appears determined to push it through without much debate. The Bill will have its second reading in the Seanad on Tuesday evening and is due to complete its passage in the Seanad by Friday before moving on to the Dáil.

The Irish Refugee Council supports the introduction of new legislation in this field given previous attempts to legislate dating back almost ten years and agrees that a new application procedure is needed as soon as possible. But if it is passed in its current form, there is a real possibility that it will lead to people in need of protection being refused, and either returned to countries where they are at risk or engaged in lengthy and expensive challenges in court, the opposite of what the Bill is intended to achieve.

Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, said “In its current form, the Bill does not have the right balance between the rights to protect people seeking international protection in Ireland, particularly those who are more vulnerable because of their age or experience of torture or severe trauma, and the interests of the state in deciding who can enter and stay in the country.”

Conlan added “It is important when bringing in new laws to deal first of all with the problems that we know exist in the current system. The Bill is an opportunity to finally put reception conditions, currently known as Direct Provision, on a statutory footing and bring Ireland into line with other EU states by granting permission to work.”

“At a time of the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, we must ensure that we do not play with people’s lives. Rushing through legislation without fully considering its impact could have the consequence of building a new legacy whereby Ireland fails to live up to its obligation to provide protection to refugees. The IRC recommendations for changes in the Bill could, if acted upon, strengthen Ireland’s commitment to provide place of safety for people at risk of persecution or serious harm.”

The International Protection Bill proposes the abolition of the independent Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and transferring responsibility for every aspect of the refugee claim to the Department of Justice. The only proposed independent element is the International Protection Appeal Tribunal. Following the publication of the Heads of the Bill in March, the Justice Committee invited submissions and published an interim report. There is no indication that the Minister for Justice has considered the recommendations of the Justice Committee or those of its own Working Group on the Protection Process which reported at the end of June 2015.

END

 

Contact

Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, 085 8585510

Notes

Sue Conlan is available for interview

The International Protection Bill 2015_IRC Introductory Statement

IRC Recommendations on International Protection Bill 2015

Department of Justice statement which accompanied publication of the Bill

The Justice Committee statement and interim report

The report of the Government’s Working Group on the Protection Process which included changes to strengthen Irish refugee law and practice

The IRC would draw attention to the following issues which require serious consideration and attention before the Bill is finalised and enacted:

  1. The absence of any reference to the reception of people seeking international protection
  2. The lack of clarity around the training and powers of an immigration officer “at the frontiers” to conduct an interview and lack of independent oversight
  3. The lack of any reference to the identification of vulnerable persons who may need greater assistance and care throughout the application process and in the reception system
  4. The lack of any gender-sensitive procedures and the absence of a particular reference to ‘domestic violence’ as an act of persecution
  5. The absence of any independent oversight of the Department of Justice in the carrying out of its obligations and duties
  6. The very limited reference to the best interests of the child and, even when mentioned, the lack of the right of the child/young person to be heard for example in relation to the carrying out of a medical assessment to determine age
  7. The lack of a definition of an unaccompanied minor/separated child and the lack of protection in the measures for consideration of whether a child is in the care of a parent or caregiver.
  8. The inability of a child/young person to apply for international protection other than through an adult
  9. The lack of independent legal advice for an unaccompanied child
  10. The inclusion of unaccompanied children in procedures which can lead to their application being deemed “inadmissible” and the wide terms in which “inadmissibility” is drafted.
  11. The omission of membership of a trade union in the refugee definition relating to ‘membership of a particular social group’
  12. The absence of a definition of ‘statelessness’ and attendant measures to protect
  13. The complete prohibition on employment at any time during the determination process
  14. Extension of the powers of detention which could be used solely on the basis that someone has applied for international protection
  15. Lack of safeguards in the power to determine that an application is ‘inadmissible’
  16. The inclusion of a power to conduct a medical examination without the consent of the applicant
  17. The inclusion of ‘internal relocation’ as a factor considered to undermine the legitimacy of an application for protection
  18. The scope of the behaviour which can lead to an accelerated appeal against refusal
  19. The power of the Minister to determine procedures for the IPAT, an independent body which reviews the Minister’s decision, making interference by the Minister a contradiction to that independence
  20. The absence of a system to prioritise applications from people with a prima facie need for protection and for children
  21. Limitations on the ability to appeal to the High Court from a decision of the Minister to revoke international protection
  22. The limited definition of ‘family’ for refugee family reunification, the inclusion of a time limit for the making of a reunification application and the absence of a right of appeal to an independent body against refusal
  23. The extension of the power to detain and to enter premises to effect deportation.