The Heads of the International Protection Bill 2015 raise fundamental issues about Ireland’s commitment to providing protection, says the Irish Refugee Council

Posted On: March 30, 2015

Media Statement, 30 March 2015

The Irish Refugee Council is concerned about the overriding purpose of the General Scheme of the International Bill published on 25th March 2015.  In announcing publication of the Heads of the Bill, the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, stated that the “single procedure” and other reforms will allow for earlier identification of people who need international protection and those who can be returned to their country of origin.

Early identification of refugees is clearly to be welcomed as it helps people displaced from their own country to begin to rebuild their lives in Ireland as soon as possible.  But, in the view of the Irish Refugee Council, the “single procedure” envisaged in the Heads of the Bill is as much, if not more, concerned with speedy decisions leading to deportation as it is with early identification of refugees.  The emphasis should be on a “single protection procedure” to ensure that people at risk of persecution or serious harm are granted permission to remain in Ireland.  Only when that has been fully completed should there be any consideration of other reasons that could give rise to Ireland’s obligations under other international conventions.

Sue Conlan, CEO of the IRC, said:  “The Heads of the Bill confirm the longstanding proposal to abolish the independent Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, seen as essential by all parties when the Refugee Act 1996 was debated and passed.  Protection must be separated from the normal immigration responsibilities of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service where the overriding concern in relation to people who enter the state without proper documentation, as most refugees do, is to remove them from the state as soon as possible.  The two responsibilities are in conflict with one another.”

Conlan added: “This is an International Protection Bill and it should not be used as a means of enforcing immigration control.  The lengthy delays in the current system are not simply the result of a lack of a single procedure but are also the result of a system that views asylum seekers in Ireland not as refugees but as economic migrants.  In addition, the complete absence of any reference to ‘Direct Provision’ in the Bill is a lost opportunity given that this is the most significant reform of asylum law in Ireland since the Refugee Act 1996 and Direct Provision has been the source of both national and international criticism since its introduction 15 years ago”.

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Contact

Caroline Reid, 085 858 5510

Notes

Sue Conlan is available for interview

The IRC will be producing a series of documents which highlight aspects of the Heads of the Bill, such as its proposals on children and vulnerable adults.

The Heads of the International Protection Bill propose a system whereby applications for Refugee Status and Subsidiary Protection are considered at the outset with one appeal if both are refused.  The proposal is also that ‘any other reasons’ for remaining in the Ireland will also be considered as part of a ‘single procedure’ and responsibility will rest with the applicant to identify those reasons even though they will not, for example, be familiar with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.  There will be no right of appeal against any refusal on human rights grounds

Refugee Status comes from the Refugee Convention 1951 and Subsidiary Protection comes from the Qualification Directive, part of the Common European Asylum System.

Subsidiary Protection (SP) has been part of EU asylum law since 2004 and in force since October 2006 in Ireland.  Unlike other EU states, Ireland chose to only consider SP applications as part of a deportation process.  This was changed in November 2013 when the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) was given responsibility for SP applications but ORAC has only been able to consider SP applications when the refugee claim has been finally determined, including in the higher courts.

The Irish Refugee Council outlined the need for a single protection procedure in a 2009 publication, ‘A Change for Change’

The IRC report indicated that Ireland’s record in granting protection fell below the EU average.  Whilst that has improved, Ireland still has a higher refusal rate than many other EU countries.