726. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice if the State operates a system of safe countries in which applicants for international protection from such countries are deemed to be inadmissible due to the satisfaction of the State with the rule of law, human rights, the independence of the court system and the treatment of minorities in such jurisdictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13401/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): There are two safe country concepts that can apply to applicants for international protection under EU law, namely Safe Country of Origin and Safe Third Country.
Under section 72 of the International Protection Act 2015, and the International Protection Act 2015 (Safe Countries of Origin) Order 2018 (Statutory Instrument no 121 of 2018), the following countries were designated as safe countries of origin with effect from 16 April 2018:
- Albania;
- Bosnia and Herzegovina;
- Georgia;
- Kosovo;
- Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of);
- Montenegro;
- Serbia; and
- South Africa.
If an applicant for international protection in the State is from one of these countries, their application will still receive a full consideration on its merits in the International Protection Office (IPO). They are not deemed inadmissible merely by coming from one of these countries.
If the recommendation of an International Protection Officer is that the applicant should be given neither a refugee declaration nor a subsidiary protection declaration and includes the finding that they are from a safe country of origin, an appeal can be lodged in writing within 10 working days to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT). Unless the IPAT considers it is not in the interests of justice to do so, it shall make its decision in relation to the appeal without holding an oral hearing.
Part 18 of the Brexit Omnibus Act 2020, which was commenced at 11:00 pm on 31 December 2020, amends the International Protection Act 2015, to enable the Minister for Justice to designate a country as a Safe Third Country, where certain conditions are met in that country including:
- life and liberty are not threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion;
- the principle of non-refoulement is respected; and
- the possibility exists to request refugee status and if found to be a refugee to receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
Where a person arrives here from a country designated as a Safe Third Country and claims international protection their application can be determined as inadmissible and the person returned to the safe third county for their application for protection to be considered there. This is in line with the EU Procedures Directive (2005/85/EU).
Before an application can be determined as inadmissible, the third country must be considered safe for the person concerned including that they will not be subjected to the death penalty, torture, or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and they have a sufficient connection with that country such that it would be reasonable for them to be returned there.
Following the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU and an examination of the necessary criteria, the International Protection Act 2015 (Safe Third Country) Order 2020, came into effect from 11:00 pm on 31 December 2020. The Order designates the UK as a safe third country for the purpose of the International Protection Act 2015, and enables the Minister for Justice to determine an application for international protection as inadmissible where the person has arrived in the State from the UK and where the relevant criteria are met.