Rush to implement new asylum procedure should not be at expense of quality legal advice and representation say Irish Refugee Council

Posted On: February 21, 2017

Media Statement, 21 February

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) today called for clarification from the International Protection Office (IPO) on the consequences of not submitting a questionnaire within 20 days and for more resources to be provided for comprehensive legal representation for people in the asylum process.

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said: “The requirement that people complete a 60 page questionnaire within 20 working days, even with an ‘if possible’ caveat, has created understandable alarm. Our Drop-In Centre and Law Centre have seen a considerable increase in requests for assistance since the new application packs were sent out.”

He continued, “We are asking that the IPO state publicly on their website that flexibility will be provided so that people can obtain legal advice and representation and receive assistance in completing the questionnaire.”

“The Questionnaire itself states that a person may be found not to be cooperating in the examination of an application if it is not received by the date and time specified. It will be important for the IPO to very clearly state that this provision does not apply and a person’s application for protection will not suffer adverse consequences if they do not submit the questionnaire within the 20 day period.”

“Early legal advice is an essential feature of a quality asylum determination procedure. A person must have access to high quality legal advice and representation to complete the questionnaire, draft a personal statement if necessary and receive assistance in gathering supporting evidence. The IPO’s own information note on transitional arrangements recommends that a person access legal advice to support their application.”

“The questionnaire is a critical document in our asylum procedure; it is not surprising that people, some of whom are particularly vulnerable, feel distressed at having to complete this type of document, in some cases for a second time, in such a short time.”

“Since 2011 the IRC’s Independent Law Centre has developed its early legal advice work, representing many people in the asylum procedure. This has been shown to be of particular benefit to the applicant and also to the decision maker. In Autumn 2015 we published a manual setting out a model for early legal advice.”

“As questionnaires are sent to around 3000 people, it is essential that resources are provided to lawyers, in particular the Legal Aid Board, who represent many people seeking protection in Ireland, so that this model of comprehensive legal advice can be given to applicants.”

ENDS

Contact

Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, 085 8585510

 

Notes

IRC Information note on the new single procedure process for international protection applicants

Law Centre Early Legal Advice Manual