30 December 2015 - The International Protection Act was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins on 30th December 2015, within six weeks of the Bill being presented to the Oireachtas on 19th November 2015 and debate guillotined in both Houses.  The Act replaces the Refugee Act 1996 and in doing so is a step backwards for Ireland in both its support for refugees and in its standing in the international community.  The Government pushed through the legislation on the grounds that it brings Ireland into line with the rest of the EU by introducing a ‘single application procedure’ and reduces the length of time that people spend waiting and in the discredited Direct Provision system.

Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said,

“If the Government was satisfied that this legislation is fully compliant with Ireland’s commitments under international and EU law it would not have considered it necessary to prevent debate and it would have legislated for a system of reception.  No explanation has been given for the rights accorded to refugees under the previous legislation, the Refugee Act 1996, being eroded.  At a time when Ireland should be increasing the role that it plays in response to the refugee crisis, this Act will therefore mean that many will not get the protection that they need.”

Conlan added,

“The absence of protection for the most vulnerable, particularly children and victims of torture, will mean that they are most likely to be left challenging negative decisions through the appeals process and the higher courts.  In reality, very few will have their applications properly considered and finalised within the promised six months.  In addition, those few accepted as refugees will find their rights to be joined by family members severely restricted under the Act making the process of re-establishing themselves even harder.”

The Justice Committee itself, in July 2015, issued an interim report following publication of the Heads of the Bill in March 2015. In it the committee recommended that the provisions of the Bill be revisited in the light of widespread concerns.  Instead, the Government ignored the committee’s concerns, detailed representations from interested parties and its own Working Group on the Protection Process which reported in June 2015.

The Irish Refugee Council therefore regrets that the Act has entered Irish law and the costs that will be borne financially by Irish people and by refugees who will be failed by this legislation.

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Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, 0858585510

Sue Conlan, CEO, 0858030114