8 January 2016

A controversial reform to the asylum law in Ireland, the International Protection Act 2015, has been signed into law just 6 weeks after it first came before the legislature. The commencement date for the new law is yet to be announced.

It streamlines procedures, creating a single application process for all applicants of international protection aimed at speeding up waiting times and reducing time spent in the Direct Provision system of reception. However, ECRE Member, the Irish Refugee Council, raised concerns that there are insufficient safeguards to allow full and proper consideration of claims which risk incorrect decisions being made at first instance. This could lead to people wrongfully being deported to countries where they face persecution, or lengthy and costly appeals at the higher courts, which could prolong the process contrary to the stated aim.  In addition, the procedure lacks a mechanism to quickly identify and assess the needs of vulnerable applicants. Harsher detention measures are also now available in the Act.  Furthermore, the reform contains more restrictive provisions in relation to family reunification with dependent extended family members and those who have gotten married after the submission of their application for international protection now excluded.

The Irish Refugee Council views the new legislation as a ‘step backwards’ as compared to the previous regime. It was also criticised for the way in which it was enacted, ignoring widespread concerns by NGOs and others, with minimal time allowed for political debate and amendments. Many of its recommendations were not taken into account, making it a missed opportunity to address failings in the previous system, such as the failure to embed the principle of the best interests of the child or issues surrounding reception facilities in the system of Direct Provision

Its CEO, Sue Conlan stated that “at a time when Ireland should be increasing the role that it plays in response to the refugee crisis, this Act will mean that many will not get the protection that they need.”

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 8 January 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.