Legal deadlines for decisions on asylum claims should be introduced, according to researchers at the Irish Center for Human Rights at NUI Galway.
On Monday, five LLM research students made a submission to Acting Justice Minister Heather Humphreys, calling for legislation to create clear timelines for each step of the international protection process.
The communication also stated that the current delays were causing serious distress to asylum seekers and that Ireland was therefore not fulfilling its human rights obligations.
The submission calls for the inclusion of legal deadlines for decision making in the International Protection Act 2015, which currently governs the asylum system in Ireland.
According to the researchers, the median time to process a first instance decision from the Office of International Protection is 17.6 months.
The median time for an appeal decision is an additional nine months.
“Due to long and uncertain deadlines, asylum seekers awaiting a decision experience higher levels of psychological distress and face an increased risk of mental illness,” the submission said. “From a human rights perspective, this practice is unacceptable. “
The submission recommends that anyone who has been in the system for more than two years be allowed to stay.
This was recommended in the Catherine Day report but was not included in the government’s white paper on ending direct supply, which was released in February.
The White Paper recommended that people seeking protection be accommodated in independent accommodation within the first four months of arriving in Ireland.
The brief states that this four-month period should be enshrined in law.
Within six months, the person should have their first instance decision from the Office of International Protection (IPO), the submission said.
If the applicant appeals a negative decision, a decision must be made by the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) within six months.
Lack of transparency
A ministerial decision must be made one month after the competent court has made a recommendation.
There is also a lack of transparency in the system, depending on the submission. “In Ireland, there is currently very little communication between the IPO or IPAT and applicants for international protection themselves on the progress of their application … this creates a situation in which applicants for international protection are left in the dark and have no idea when they will receive their decision.
To combat this, the researchers say an online portal should be created for asylum seekers.
This should include an interactive timeline where the progress of their application is clearly visible and explained.
The portal should also include information on appointment times, dates and necessary documents and information.
The submission also calls for an auditing mechanism to ensure quality decision-making, and that interpreters are accredited and receive specific training on the asylum process.
Additional resources and staff for the Legal Aid Council are also recommended.
The submission was written by Sarah Donnelly, Anna Ledwith, Amanda Morrison, Emma-Louise Steiner and Semiha Elif Yararbas, with advice from Evgeny Shtorn of the Asylum Seekers Movement in Ireland (MASI).
“This year we have addressed the issue of delays, which concerns absolutely everyone in the asylum process and leaves an unbearable mark in our memories,” said Mr Shtorn. “No one will be able to give me back that time.” It needs to be addressed as soon as possible, and I’m so glad we’ve built this strong, solid argument that it will be hard to ignore. “