Reviewing the International Protection Bill 2015: Part 1
2016-02-03 15:48:18 -
Human Rights
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Waheed Mudah

 

On 19 November last, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald presented to the Dáil a bill which, on completion of the legislative process, will largely become a one-stop shop for laws governing asylum applications in the State.

For more than a decade, there have been calls for reform of the asylum system in Ireland, not helped by long delays in the application process, and the helplessness in which applicants found themselves. The International Protection Bill 2015, when enacted and operational, will go a long way to reduce the waiting period between when applications for asylum are made and the final decisions of those applications are communicated.

This new legislation will oblige all persons who arrive at the State’s frontiers seeking asylum or refugee status, or ‘international protection’ as it is now to be known, to put all their reasons for seeking protection in one application form. The applicants will be processed in the following order: firstly, those persons who qualify for refugee protection (ie someone whose persecutions fall within the basis for granting refugee status under the United Nations Convention for Refugees), and secondly, those persons who do not qualify for UN refugee status but nonetheless runs the risk of exposure to persecution if returned to their country of origin, and therefore may be granted subsidiary protections under EU Directive 20014/83/EC. 

Persecution, as the defined by the bill, is described as acts constituting severe violation of basic human rights, or an accumulation of violation of basic human rights of the applicants that are severe in nature. The bill also emphasises the need to establish connections between the reasons for persecution and the acts of persecution or the absence of protection for the applicant to justify refugee or subsidiary protection in the State.

Applications for international protection may be made at the border or port of entry to an immigration officer, or to the minister through the authorised officer where the applicant is already in the State whether lawfully or unlawfully. Applicants will initially asked a few details including the grounds for their application, personal details such as their identity, nationality, country of origin, route travelled before arriving in the State, etc. These details will be recorded for reference at a more elaborate interview by an authorised officer to assess the applicant’s application.

An applicant who is under the age of 18 and unaccompanied by an adult shall be referred to the Child and Family Agency, which has provisions under the Child Care Acts to provide guidance in their asylum applications. Applicants who cannot speak English will be provided an interpreter to put across their fears and concerns.

Once an application for international protection is made, the applicant will be fingerprinted and given a temporary residence certificate, containing their photo and other personal details, allowing them to remain in the State for the sole purpose of having their application examined until a final decision is made. No person under the age of 14 shall be fingerprinted unless in the presence of their parents or guardian. There is no deviation from the current asylum card provided to asylum seekers in the State as applicants are not allowed to work nor travel outside of the State without the Minister’s consent. Applicants are also obliged to remain at their address or inform the minister of change of address, otherwise correspondence about their applications sent to their address on record is deemed served after three days when sent by prepaid registered post. As currently applies, the bill also obliges the minister to correspond in a language understood by the applicant.

 

Continued next issue

 

Waheed Mudah is a solicitor with Kevin Tunney Solicitors

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