President Higgins launches new initiatives in refugee law by the Irish Refugee Council

Posted On: 17 February 2012

President Michael D. Higgins launches new Law Centre and refugee law database, both developed by the Irish Refugee Council

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, today (17/2/12) formally launches two new initiatives for the development of refugee law in Ireland. At an event hosted by Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, patron of the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) at the Bar Council, the President officially opens the Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre and marks the launch of the website of the European Database of  Asylum Law (EDAL).

Sue Conlan, Chief Executive of the IRC, says: “For many years, President Higgins has worked to highlight the plight of refugees in Ireland and to seek change in the Irish asylum system, so we are particularly delighted that he is launching these two initiatives.  Both projects further the IRC’s mission of securing a just and efficient asylum process through developing refugee law.”

Drawing on best practice from the UK and elsewhere, the Law Centre will focus on providing legal advice and assistance for applicants at the start of the asylum process  and in situations where there is unmet legal need and a particular vulnerability.

“One of the main objectives of the Law Centre is to road test the theory that by providing legal representation and ensuring that all the relevant information is before the decision-maker at the earliest opportunity, the number of challenges to decisions and, therefore, the overall costs in legal aid, legal fees and in providing accommodation for those claiming asylum can be reduced,” says Sue Conlan.

The European Database of Asylum Law (EDAL) has been developed in partnership with ECRE, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. EDAL creates a free, online database of caselaw on refugee and asylum law, available in nine languages.  Eleven European countries have been included in the database and plans are underway to expand the project to include the caselaw of further countries. The project aims to contribute to the quality and consistency of asylum decision-making across the EU by allowing practitioners, decision and policy-makers to learn from and use precedents from other European member states.

Mrs Justice McGuinness says: “This event marks a significant development in the work of the Irish Refugee Council which will contribute to the quality of refugee law in Ireland.”

Read the full text of the President’s speech here: