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Refugee Council calls for reform of asylum system

The organisation has made proposals about making the system “fairer” – saying that the current structure is far too costly, places burdens on the courts and puts people through unnecessary misery.

Image: mrhayata via Creative Commons

THE IRISH REFUGEE COUNCIL has today launched a plan for the reform of the asylum system which, it says, will inject “efficiency and fairness” into the process.

The IRC says that introducing a single protection system, investing in early legal advice, and creating a new appeals body that could deal with both protection and immigration cases would reduce costly challenges and the burden on the courts.

In its Roadmap for Asylum Reform, the IRC describes the Irish protection system as one “fraught with lengthy delays and expensive legal proceedings” that needlessly waste public funds.

Launching the roadmap today, Justice Catherine McGuiness said: “For many years, I have watched with concern how the lack of fair procedures and transparency, especially in the appeals process, has meant that justice has not always been done within the asylum process.

“The proposals contained in this document would lead to more sustainable and just decisions.  This means that decisions would not be subject to costly challenges and the burden on the courts would be reduced”.

The proposals include the introduction of a new appeals body, which would have jurisdiction to hear appeals on both protection and immigration matters; to replace the current Refugee Appeals Tribunal; and to fulfil the commitment in the Programme for Government to create a statutory appeals mechanism to deal with immigration decisions.

The IRC claims that the current appeals body does not represent “an effective remedy”.

Sue Conlan, Chief Executive of the IRC, said that the organisation had followed best practice employed in other countries, which suggested that funds should be invested in legal assistance and representation at the initial decision-making stage. “By ensuring that all the relevant information is placed before the decision-maker at the earliest opportunity, the number of challenges to decisions and therefore, the overall costs in legal aid, legal fees and in providing accommodation for those claiming asylum would be reduced,” she said.

Conlan said that the appeals system proposed in the state’s Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 bore “little difference” to the current Tribunal and failed to introduce “the checks and balances needed to create an effective remedy”.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill is due to come before the Justice Committee in the new Dáil term.

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