Govt must cut backlog in asylum applications says UNHCR
2018-05-01 15:01:40 -

The UN’s refugee agency has called on the Government to take immediate steps to reduce backlogs for people awaiting decision on their protection application.


Speaking ahead of a conference on asylum reception in Cork, the UNHCR’s head of office in Ireland said that asylum seekers are now waiting on average of 19 months to be interviewed by the International Protection Office (IPO) under standard procedures.


With decisions likely to take longer again after interview, many asylum-seekers may now expect to wait two years before they will receive a decision on their asylum claim.


“UNHCR’s own research shows that long periods of time spent in State-funded accommodation is leading to dependency and disempowerment among many people seeking protection, hampering their integration prospects,” said Enda O’Neill.


“The introduction of a more general right to work from June, for those who can avail of it, should ease some of the stress people experience while waiting. Ultimately however, they need certainty about their fate to move forward with their lives.”


Provisional statistics from Irish authorities for 2017 indicate that there were some 5,200 people awaiting a decision at the IPO at the end of 2017. This is up more than 1,000 over 12 months in spite of the introduction of a new single procedure in December 2016 intended to reduce processing times to six months.


European Union law requires member states to ensure decisions are made on protection applications as soon as possible. Many countries have laid down six-month time limits in national law.


Under Irish law, however, where a decision has not been taken within six months, all that is required is for the Department of Justice and Equality to provide the applicant, upon request, with an estimate how much longer they would have to wait.


O’Neill said the Government needs to understand the cost effectiveness of shorter processing times to the State.


“Each year one person spends in direct provision costs the state €10,950,” he said, referring to figures in the 2015 McMahon Working Group report. “The cost of processing is a fraction of this amount. Investing in decision making not only improves outcomes for refugees, but also makes financial sense.


“Much of the focus in Ireland of late has been on direct provision and the accommodation system itself. However, the key underlying issue is not the accommodation necessarily but rather processing times. Ireland is to be commended for its ongoing efforts to improve conditions in refugee accommodation centres, but when direct provision was introduced in 2000, the intention was that it should only be for a short period of time. This must be our goal again.”


O’Neill was speaking at the conference Beyond McMahon - the future of asylum reception in Ireland, which took place at University College Cork on Wednesday 25 April.

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