The Immigration Residence and Protection Bill 2008 introduces a single procedure for the determination of protection applications, that is to say applications for refugee status or subsidiary protection. This is an important development and, if implemented carefully, should be a very positive one.

At present, applications for refugee status and subsidiary protection are determined separately – and an applicant only has the right to apply for subsidiary protection once his or her application for refugee status has been determined. The single procedure will end this two stage process, meaning that protection applications are likely to be determined more quickly. This has advantages for the applicant and the State alike, and builds on progress already made by the Office of the
Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) in reducing backlogs. The quality of ORAC’s decision making has improved since its foundation in November 2000. However, more can and should be done to improve quality further – and the single
procedure provides an important opportunity to do this. 

The introduction of the single procedure also makes it all the more important that investment is made to improve quality. The single procedure will be more demanding and complicated for decision makers since refugee status and subsidiary protection will have to be considered together. Without proper investment, the single procedure could therefore lead to more errors in decision making. That in turn could lead to applicants being put in danger by being wrongly returned to their countries of origin. It could also lead to more judicial reviews.

None of this is to argue that the single procedure does not have real advantages. Plainly, it does – cutting down on delay means that those who are entitled to protection should get it sooner and those who are not should at least know quickly where they stand. But it is to argue that the single procedure needs to be well structured, well managed and well resourced in order to deliver fairness and minimise the need for judicial review. This report makes recommendations that should help to deliver this. 

This report is designed to influence policymakers and to inform the public. It is hoped that it will shape the work underway to design the new single procedure. The single procedure is an enormous opportunity for Ireland’s protection system. It is in the interests of protection applicants and the Irish people alike that this opportunity is seized - and not squandered.

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