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Asylum Seekers

Asylum seekers brought to court over lack of ID sparks claims of 'interference' in process

Several non-EU Nationals before the District Courts in Dublin over recent weeks for the same category of offence.

AN IMMIGRATION EXPERT has raised concerns about “extraordinary interference” in the asylum process after a number of men were brought before the courts and jailed for having no travel documents in recent weeks.

Migrant rights groups and a solicitor have warned that government is trying to instill fear in asylum seekers from seeking refuge in Ireland.

They pointed to several recent cases of asylum seekers without documents being charged rather than being allowed to enter the IP system as part of operations by the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Typically, asylum seekers wait for periods reaching up to several years to have their cases processed before they have their cases ruled on by the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (Ipat). This body decides on whether the person has qualified to remain in Ireland.

Dublin-based advocacy group the Africa Solidary Centre told The Journal that it was highly concerned that “criminalising” people seeking asylum by jailing them for having no identification risks “prejudicing” their cases in front of immigration tribunals.

Several non-EU Nationals were before the District Courts in Dublin over recent weeks for the same category of offence as part of a Garda National Immigration Bureau operation.

One case, at Cloverhill District Court, saw a 30-year-old Sudanese national jailed for two months as a “deterrent” after turning up at Dublin Airport arrivals without a passport, identification or travel documents.

These men have been brought before District courts in Dublin under the Immigration Act over the past month.

The view was shared by solicitor John Gerard Cullen, who has assisted in a number of immigration cases including family reunification matters in recent years.

He said he views the recent cases as “extraordinary interference by the executive”, warning that the District Court should not “oust the International Protection Appeals Tribunal” as the body for such cases.

Cullen said the decisions were concerning as they “appeared to be applying a one-size fits all” approach to the asylum seekers’ case.

Cullen added that “applying a two month sentence to people who has claimed asylum doesn’t take into the account the specifics and nuances” of their cases.

Last week, Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman denied that the Government was attempting to create deterrents in order to deter people from coming here. He was responding to the decision not to provide accommodation sooner to people staying in tents on Dublin’s Mount Street.

O’Gorman said in that interview with RTÉ Radio One that January and February of this year had seen record numbers of people coming to Ireland seeking International Protection.

The legislation under which people have been brought to court in recent weeks, the Immigration Act, refers to the requirement of non-nationals in Ireland to produce documents “on demand” to an immigration officer or gardaí, unless they give a “satisfactory explanation of the circumstances” which prevent them from so doing.

This does not apply to any non-national who is under the age of 16 or who was born in Ireland.

Bulelani Mfaco, from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Masi) said that the group has been contacted about the recent use of the law under the Immigration Act.

“The law has always been there but it was always understood that it was never applicable to asylum seekers. How can you expect a person who is fleeing persecution by their state to go to the same government, and ask them for a passport to run away from them?

It doesn’t make sense. That’s why it was never integrated.

Mfaco added that Masi believes it’s a “violation” of the Geneva Convention and is hoping any future District Court decision can be challenged by the person prosecuted.

“The government is trying to scare people from coming to Ireland but it can be challenged,” he said.

“We are concerned because generally it is understood in international law that you can’t punish a person seeking asylum for not having a travel document or passport,” Mfaco said.

“For that reason alone, the prosecution of people for these is a violation of international law and we are hoping that someone will be able to challenge this in the courts soon. But it’s difficult for people in the asylum process to challenge decisions.”


Lassane Quedraogo, who is on the board of directors at the Africa Solidarity Centre, said there has been an exaggeration of the importance of travel documents for asylum seekers arriving in Ireland.

Quedraogo told The Journal the issue had “never been a problem” for many asylum seekers but has been “played for political reasons” by “anti-immigrant and far-right” actors.

“When you are running from a war or prosecution ore any circumstances that your life is at stake, documentation is not important. We know these people are sometimes helped by agents and connections who manage everything for them to get to a safe country. Somebody who is running from bombs or shells cannot get documentation.

“People’s dream is to get to safe place. How they get there isn’t important – if you ask some of them they don’t know even remember or know the route they took, that’s not the important part for them.”

Quedraogo added that asylum seekers are “scrutinised” already when entering Ireland through the International Protection Office. This includes the taking of fingerprints as part of the monitoring.

“I would be concerned that this could impact their cases at the International Protection tribunal. We need to assess the applicant on the grounds of their application and not to have people put in prison for not having a passport,” he said.

Additional reporting by Tom Tuite

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