· Published Bill provides the legislative platform for the early introduction of a single procedure for international protection applications.
· The Bill is intended to achieve the desired balance in treating asylum seekers with humanity and respect while ensuring more efficient immigration procedures and safeguards.
· Today’s publication opens the way for the Government and the Oireachtas to bring the Bill to enactment by the end of this year.
19 November 2015
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, today published the text of the International Protection Bill 2015 which was approved by Government and which has been presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas to begin the legislative process leading to the enactment of the Bill.
This is the another important step in delivering the Government’s undertaking to reduce the length of time asylum applicants spend in the protection process, including the direct provision system through establishing a single applications procedure for international protection under the Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016.
The publication of the Bill and its early enactment and implementation is a key pillar of reforming recommendations made by the Working Group to Report to Government on Improvements to the Protection Process including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers, published on 30 June 2015.
Under the proposed single procedure, an applicant will only have to make one application, and will have all grounds for seeking international protection and to be permitted to remain in the State examined and determined in one process.
Minister Fitzgerald looks forward to building on the work which has already been carried out by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in reviewing the General Scheme for the Bill which had been published by the Government last March.
“The Bill now provides us with the legislative means to reform the current multi-layered and sequential system”. Minister Fitzgerald said.
Minister Fitzgerald went on to say that, “The introduction of the single procedure, together with other reforms in the proposed International Protection Bill, will allow us to efficiently grant international protection to those who are entitled to it. At the same time, it will identify, at a much earlier stage, persons who have no entitlement to stay in the State and who can safely return to their country of origin.”
The New Streamlined Procedure:
1. The principal purpose of the International Protection Bill 2015 is to reform the system for determining applications for international protection (also known as asylum) in Ireland through the introduction of a single application procedure.
2. Under the proposed single procedure, an applicant will make one application, and will have all grounds for seeking international protection and to be permitted to remain in the State examined and determined in one process.
3. It is intended that the Bill will be in compliance with the United Nations Convention relating to the status of Refugees and related EU Directives on asylum procedures and qualification into which Ireland has opted.
4. International protection can be granted either,
(a) as a person who is eligible for refugee protection on the basis of a well-founded fear of persecution in the country of origin, or
(b) as a person who is eligible for subsidiary protection on the basis of a real risk of suffering serious harm if returned to the country of origin.
5. Under the Bill’s new legislative framework a dedicated unit of the Department of Justice and Equality, to be known as ‘The Protection Office’ will be the determining authority at first instance for applications for international protection, replacing the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC).
6. The authorised case officers making decisions under the new structure will continue to be the same staff as in the ORAC and are, therefore, specialists in the processing of protection cases trained to UNHCR standards.
7. The establishment of a new ‘Protection Office’ within the Department ensures a more streamlined approach within the Department of Justice and Equality which will allow the examination of an application to include grounds which would not currently be within the statutory jurisdiction of the ORAC, for example those arising from the European Convention on Human Rights.
8. In the case of an applicant who is being refused international protection a decision will be made as to whether the applicant should be given a permission to remain in the State having regard to the applicant’s family and personal circumstances and his or her right to respect for his or her family life.
9. The existing Refugee Appeals Tribunal will be replaced by a newly constituted and independent appeals body (The International Protection Appeals Tribunal) to provide an effective remedy against a decision on an application for international protection including a refusal of refugee status or subsidiary protection at first instance. The newly configured and resourced Tribunal is designed to improve the efficient conduct of its business and the consistency of its appeal decisions.
10. The International Protection Bill 2015 is a reforming measure. It will introduce a single legislative instrument for the asylum system in Ireland thereby replacing the current more cumbersome framework which is based on the Refugee Act 1996 as significantly amended, and various regulations made between 2006 and 2015 under section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972.
The Bill will also provide a solution for some difficulties identified by the Courts in respect of the State's capacity to enforce deportation orders in certain circumstances where the person, the subject of the order, seeks to evade or frustrate their deportation. It should be noted that these are people who have had access to full due process, including the courts, but still refuse to cooperate with their removal from the State. It is essential, in the context of the wider migration crisis in the EU that humanitarian measures for those in need of protection are balanced by an effective returns programme for those who have no basis to be in the State.
Notes for Editors
The International Protection Bill 2015 - which can be viewed here http://bit.ly/1l7fot1 - was approved by Government and has been presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas to begin the legislative process leading to the enactment of the Bill.
The General Scheme of the Bill was previously published in March 2015 and at that time it was forwarded to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for pre-legislative scrutiny and public consultation.
International protection (or asylum) is available to a person who is either a refugee or a person eligible for subsidiary protection. In accordance with the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a person may be eligible for refugee protection on the basis of a well-founded fear of persecution in the country of origin for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group. A person who is not a refugee may be eligible for subsidiary protection on the basis of a real risk of suffering serious harm if returned to the country of origin.
Under the current system a foreign national who is seeking international protection in Ireland is assessed for eligibility for refugee status at first instance by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC).
An applicant may appeal a refusal by ORAC to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT). If refused refugee status an applicant is then assessed for eligibility for subsidiary protection status at first instance by ORAC with the possibility of an appeal to RAT.
If refused international protection by ORAC and RAT an applicant may make representations to the Minister for Justice and Equality to be allowed leave to remain in the State on other grounds, including grounds based in the European Convention on Human Rights. This multi-layered and sequential system has proven cumbersome for all parties concerned and can take several years to complete. It is also susceptible to further and costly delay where there is judicial review in relation to any of the decisions arising at the various stages of the existing process. This layered process has been identified in the Report of the Working Group on the Protection Process as being a key contributor to the length of time people remain in Direct Provision and the ensuing challenges for residents and the State.
The Bill proposes to replace the current layered system with a single procedure whereby an applicant will make one application and will have all grounds for seeking international protection and to be permitted to remain in the State examined and determined in one process. An applicant will be able to appeal a refusal of international protection at first instance to a new independent Tribunal and an applicant who is unsuccessful at appeal will have the possibility of voluntary return to his or her country of origin as an alternative to removal from the State.
The Bill will give further effect to the following EU Directives in the field of international protection which are binding on Ireland:
Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof.
Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004 on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted.
Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status.
The Bill is an important element in the range of actions set out in the Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016 in relation to the review and reform of the asylum system.
Working Group to Report to Government on Improvements to the Protection Process including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers
The Report of the Working Group to Report to Government on Improvements to the Protection Process including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers was published on 30 June 2015.
The terms of reference of the Working Group addressed measures aimed at improving the protection process while respecting the dignity and improving the quality of life of applicants for international protection while their applications are under examination.
The Working Group was chaired by retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon and its membership was drawn from a range of interests in the international protection area including UNHCR, non-governmental organisations, protection applicants community, academia and relevant Government Departments and Offices.
The Report of the Working Group contains 173 recommendations, many of which have implications for a number of Government Departments and services. Work on the consideration and implementation of the recommendations is progressing at present. In particular, the Working Group recommended the early enactment and implementation of a single procedure by way of the International Protection Bill as a matter of urgent reform.
Miscellaneous amendments to the Immigration Acts
The Bill also contains a small number of amendments to the Immigration Acts of 1999, 2003 and 2004. The amendments provide for improving the effectiveness and clarity of legislative provisions dealing with:
· the arrest, detention and removal of non-nationals against whom a deportation is in force.
· the removal from the State of persons refused leave to land.
· the appointment of immigration officers in the context of the ongoing civilianisation of border control duties.
· the designation of an approved port for the purposes of entry into the State.
· Permission for a foreign national to be in the State.