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Hannah Komdwe (2) at a direct provision protest in November.
Hannah Komdwe (2) at a direct provision protest in November.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Anti-Deportation Ireland: ALL members of asylum reform group should resign

Sue Conlan says the group has not been fully consulted on new legislation.
Mar 27th 2015, 1:06 PM 14,897 85

Updated: 15.38

THE CEO OF the Irish Refugee Council has resigned from the government’s working group on the protection process – which was tasked at examining issues such as direct provision.

Sue Conlan has sent a letter of resignation to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and junior minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who has responsibility for direct provision.

In it, she criticises the justice minister for publishing the heads of the International Protection Bill on Wednesday, without allowing the working group to have seen them first.

Conlan said the legislation represents the “most significant changes in refugee law in Ireland for almost twenty years”, since the Refugee Act in 1996.

“Given the importance of the bill, which contains much more than a single protection procedure, it is difficult to understand why the decision was taken to withhold it from the working group. It is an opportunity lost and may well make passage of the bill through the Oireachtas more difficult as matters that could have been ironed out in the working group will now need to be brought in to the party political arena.”

Conlan said the group, which commenced work in November 2014, “entered into this process in good faith and did everything possible to make it work”.

We feel that to carry on with the process goes against the best interests of the people in the protection system now and those who will come to Ireland seeking protection in the future. We have real concerns about the direction of the new bill and need to work to ensure that its main emphasis is protection and not deterrence.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Conlan said she expected direct provision to be addressed in the bill, but said there is “no mention” of it.

When it was put her that the Department of Justice had briefed the group on the bill, she said this wasn’t the case, noting its members were “told some of what was in and some of what was out” but were not given a “clear overview”.

She added that Fitzgerald “needs to be a little bit more hands on as opposed to leaving it to her officials to make headway”.

Irish Refugee Council Reports Sue Conlan Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Speaking on Wednesday, Fitzgerald said the bill will “enhance our capacity to efficiently grant international protection to those who are entitled to it” and “achieve the desired balance in treating asylum seekers with humanity and respect while at the same time ensuring more efficient immigration procedures and safeguard”.

‘Regrettable’

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said Conlan’s decision to resign was “regrettable”.

While there have been differences of views expressed by representatives on the sub groups and within the overall plenary group on various matters all parties have been working extremely hard on producing proposals and papers on various issues, with a view to formulating recommendations to be made to government on what improvements should be made to the state’s direct provision and protection process and to the various supports for protection applicants.

The spokesperson added that the International Protection Bill was “discussed at a number of meetings of the sub group examining what improvements can be made to the existing protection process”.

He said it was not possible to share the draft heads of the bill with the working group members as they were “still in development stage and hadn’t yet been submitted to the minister or government for approval, department officials provided members with a clear overview of the draft scheme and the proposed single procedure and answered any questions that working group members had in this regard”.

“Now that the general scheme is published there is an opportunity for interested parties to provide any comments to the department on the proposal.”

The chair of the working group, Dr Bryan McMahon, also said Conlan’s resignation was “regrettable” as members are currently engaged in “a crucial stage” of deliberations.

It is unfortunate that the IRC could not continue to work within the group and contribute to a final set of recommendations to government aimed at showing greater respect for the dignity of those in the protection system and improving the quality of their lives as required by our terms of reference.

“There are of course views of varying shades among the membership but I am more than satisfied that all members are genuinely engaged in the task at hand, namely identifying a set of recommendations to government for improvements that will bring tangible benefits to existing and future applicants,” McMahon said.

Anti-Deportation Ireland welcomed Conlan’s decision, saying it “should have come sooner”.

The organisation encouraged other members of the working group to do the same, stating that the body “does little more than provide a veil of legitimacy for the government as they implement their regressive refugee policies”.

Originally published: 10.37am

Read: The scars that brought us to Ireland: Asylum seekers on the violence that made them flee

Watch: “We have a love affair with incarcerating people in Ireland”

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Órla Ryan

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