Following a call for submissions from the Department of Justice in May 2024 on the proposed designation of seven countries as safe, the Irish Refugee Council produced a submission outlining country of origin information for each country. The proposed countries were Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, India, Malawi, Morocco. On the 2 July the Department of Justice announced that Brazil, Egypt, India, Malawi and Morocco would be designated safe. 

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There is a high threshold for designating a country as safe. The Minister must show that there is “generally and consistently no persecution, torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, and no threat of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict.” The Minister must also take account of relevant laws, the observance of freedoms and rights in the countries, as well as respect for the principle of non-refoulement.

A ‘safe country’ is not safe for everyone. While refugee recognition rates from these countries may generally be lower than average, there is evidence that some groups, such as women, members of the LGBTQI+ community, religious minorities, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable people are routinely persecuted.

All seven countries considered by the Minister have concerning track records of gender-based violence, with authorities unable or unwilling to protect victims. All countries show evidence of torture or other inhumane or degrading treatment, often at the hands of authorities. Three of the seven countries (Bangladesh, India, Egypt) have violated the principle of non-refoulment or otherwise mistreated refugees. In 2021, Amnesty International data placed Egypt in “the top three countries worldwide for state executions.”

There are significant implications on a person's international protection application if their country is designated as safe. People arriving from counties designated to be safe are subject to the accelerated procedure, meaning they receive an interview date the same day they apply for protection. The waiting period to interview for those in the accelerated procedure is currently three weeks. Also, under law, a person from a country designated as safe has a shorter time to appeal and, unless it can be shown otherwise, the appeal is on the papers only, not in person. hese reduced safeguards have significant implications for applicants. Despite this, 20% of applications from the countries currently designated as safe are granted protection and 20% of appeals are successful.

Applicants whose protection applications are accelerated may have difficulties accessing health services, psychological and social support, and legal representation. In the case of male applicants, they may be street homeless at the time of their international protection interview. 

The Irish Refugee Council has previously stated that for accelerated procedures to work the protection process must be working optimally to avoid vulnerable people falling through the cracks. It is also essential that the Department must adhere to its own legal test when designating safe counties.