International Protection Bill was signed into law on 30 December 2015 with the aim of achieving the right balance in treating people seeking protection in Ireland with humanity and respect while ensuring more efficient immigration procedures and safeguards. The International Protection Act 2015 introduced a ‘single procedure’ in which applications for refugee status and for subsidiary protection to be considered in one protection application which, if refused, will proceed by way of one appeal to the International Protection Appeal Tribunal. In addition, rather than a third separate application for leave to remain (which currently exists under the Immigration Act 1999), the Act provides for consideration of any additional issues to be considered by the Minister of Justice and Equality if both applications for protection are refused. Read more about the key provisions here.
In 2015, the Irish Refugee Council made a number of submissions to the Irish Government outlining key concerns and recommendations on the International Protection Bill. These included the failure to embed the principle of the best interests of the child and the associated weaknesses which will potentially expose children to harm; the lack of protection in the single application procedure against error and omissions and therefore the risk that wrong decisions will be made without adequate checks and balances and a right of redress; the lack of respect for the rights of refugees to obtain family reunification, vital if refugees are to be able to re-establish themselves in Ireland and settle into their new communities. Read more below.
The Irish Refugee Council provided comments on the General Scheme of the International Protection Bill. We called upon the Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality to review the Bill with the aim of creating a fair, efficient and protection sensitive asylum procedure which reflects the right to asylum as guaranteed under Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We welcomed the long overdue establishment of a single protection while emphasising that such a procedure will not solve all the issues in the current system providing the following recommendations, that: the independent Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner is maintained and not subsumed into the Department of Justice; the single protection procedure provides for proper consideration and support of issues that give rise to Ireland’s obligations under other conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights, with a right of appeal against refusal to the Protection Review Tribunal; the Bill also provides a legal framework for reception conditions which are an inherent part of any protection procedure. This submission also focuses on addressing the needs of vulnerable persons and family reunification.Read more below.