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Question

58. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will report on the implementation of the provisions of the International Protection Act 2015; if she is satisfied that asylum seekers are gaining access to sufficient legal advice and translation services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15752/17]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The principal provisions of the International Protection Act 2015 were commenced on 31 December 2016 and as a result, applications for asylum, subsidiary protection and permission to remain in the State are now being examined under the Single Application Procedure, replacing the previous sequential application system and bringing Ireland into line with the processing arrangements applicable in other EU Member States. The new processing arrangements will determine certainty of status at an earlier stage for those entitled to seek international protection within the State. The Act is intended to achieve the desired balance between treating asylum seekers with humanity and respect and ensuring more efficient immigration procedures and safeguards.
All applications for international protection from 31 December, 2016 will be processed under the new arrangements in the International Protection Office of INIS (replacing the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner) and any appeals arising in relation to asylum and subsidiary protection applications will be heard by the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (replacing the Refugee Appeals Tribunal).
With regard to access to legal advice for those seeking international protection, the Legal Aid Board operates a mixed model of service delivery to persons seeking international protection in the State. The model involves both the use of in-house staff, including solicitor staff, working in law centres and the referral of cases to private solicitors on a panel. Since the commencement of the International Protection Act 2015, the Board has committed to providing all international protection clients with early legal advice on all aspects of their application.
International protection clients receive a full information consultation before completing their questionnaire, wherein the key elements of refugee law are set out, their own obligations as applicants are outlined and the requirements of the questionnaire are explained in full. Where necessary the Board provides for the services of interpreters for the conduct of consultations and the provision of advice. The Board also, where necessary, provides for the translation of certain documents.
It is proposed that all clients will be provided with a further consultation pre-interview in which legal advice on the particulars of their claim based on their completed questionnaire will be given and where it is considered appropriate, submissions may be drafted and made to the IPO.
If required, legal representation may also be provided in relation to an appeal to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal of a recommendation that a person not be granted asylum or subsidiary protection status in the State.
The service provided by private solicitors on the Board's panel is the same service that would be provided by a law centre and the fee arrangements that I have approved seek to reflect a much greater emphasis on early legal advice and assistance than was the case prior to the commencement of the 'single procedure' provisions. Law centres refer applicants to the private solicitors on the panel having regard to the capacity of the Law Centre to take on new cases at a particular point in time and having regard to other guidelines laid down by the Board management from time to time.