International Protection in Ireland: A Short Guide to the Asylum Process
In this post, I will set out the ordinary asylum process in Ireland. Naturally there are always divergent courses an application may take along the way to finality, but here I will discuss the standard process for seeking asylum in this country.
The Asylum Process & Asylum Seekers’ Rights
When a person arrives in Ireland and wishes to claim asylum, they must present themselves to the International Protection Office (the “IPO” – an office of the Department of Justice contained within the Immigration Service Delivery) to begin the process. People arriving via airplane can make it known at the airport that they wish to claim asylum also. Under EU and International Law, Ireland is obliged to fully examine the facts of such claims before making any substantive decision. The applicant’s fingerprints are taken and a short preliminary interview, known as a S.13 (of the International Protection Act 2015) interview, then takes place to determine the applicant’s basic details, who they are, why they are here, etc. There is also a medical exam to determine any infectious diseases, etc. that the person may be carrying. While the Department of Justice is examining the applicant’s claim, the applicant may be offered temporary basic accommodation care of the International Protection Accommodation Service, or IPAS. IPAS is managed by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. The State is required to provide such accommodation, along with inter alia medical assistance, sustenance, basic needs, and a dignified standard of living by virtue of the Receptions Conditions Directive (2013/33/EU), which Ireland has implemented by way of S.I No 230-2018 the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018. Any derogation from this requirement is a breach of EU and Irish law and can render the State liable to litigation.
Having presented themselves to the IPO, the asylum seeker will be given a Questionnaire to fill out detailing their full background, family circumstances, reason for fleeing their home country, etc. They may also seek financial assistance through the Civil Legal Aid scheme in order to assist with the cost of obtaining legal advice and assistance. Once the applicant engages with the Legal Aid Board, they may then be assigned a legal representative, such as KOD Lyons Solicitors, to assist with the Asylum application. It is the lawyer’s job to hear the applicant’s circumstances and draft legal submissions supporting the applicant’s claim, and to provide them with legal advice throughout the process. The applicant may be given a small social welfare payment of €38.80 per week (€29.90 per child), known as the Daily Allowance Expense and, subject to Dept. of Justice approval, may be given permission to enter the labour market after a period of 6 months residency. There are strict criteria surrounding this permission and there are also sectors that the applicant cannot obtain work from.
Assuming the asylum seeker has not engaged in another asylum process in another country, which will be discovered via the EURODAC fingerprint system, an interview, known as a S.35 interview, will be scheduled by the IPO which the applicant must attend in person. An interpreter will also be provided where required. Some applicants may have to attend a S.21 inadmissibility interview first if, for example, the IPO deems them to have come from a designated ‘safe’ country of origin in accordance with S.72 of the 2015 Act, or if the IPO has reason to believe that another country has previously accepted responsibility for their request for asylum.
The IPO Interview Process
Some applicants can be waiting over a year for an interview but others, such as those from designated ‘safe’ countries, may have their claims heard much quicker in an effort to speed them through the process. Countries currently designated as safe by the Minister for Justice are Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Georgia, and South Africa. Applicants from such countries face an uphill battle in order to counter the Minister’s pre-determined assumption that theirs is a safe country of origin. The IPO can also require applicants to return at a later date for a follow-up interview, in order to clarify certain details of their claim before issuing a decision. There are also a number of intermediate interviews that may occur along the way, in order to iron out any potential issues or barriers to the asylum process that may have arisen, such as an applicant having spent a number of years in another country before coming to Ireland.
The S.35 interview is intense, arduous, and can take as long as 5 hours to complete. During this process an IPO Deciding Officer will drill down into the finest details of the applicant’s claim, searching for inconsistencies or untruths. It is a necessary aspect of the IPO Officer’s role that they analyse every aspect of the applicant’s claim, since in reality not every asylum seeker may be genuine. Truthfully, the vast majority of applicants I come across give me no cause for concern and although I work on the opposite side of the table to the IPO, I do accept that it is a necessary evil that the IPO adopts a very strict approach in order to ensure they are satisfied that the applicant’s claim is genuine.
The Appeals Process & Thereafter
In many cases, and for a variety of reasons, the applicant will be refused asylum, subsidiary protection and permission to remain at first instance. A right of appeal then arises by way of S.41 of the International Protection Act 2015. This appeal is made to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal, or IPAT. It is a de novo hearing, and the decision of the Tribunal is not in any way based upon the decision of the IPO, though they may of course choose to affirm the decision of the IPO in any event. At the hearing, the appellant asylum seeker will be represented by Counsel, who will have been briefed on the matter by an office such as ours, an IPO Presenting Officer who is there to represent the position of the Minister and put forward their reasons for refusing asylum, the Tribunal Member who will make the appeal decision, the appellant themselves, any translators needed, and most often a representative of the appellant’s solicitors, such as myself. 99% of IPAT hearings are held online, with only a small few being held in person at the IPAT offices.
The hearing is inquisitorial in nature and not intended to be adversarial, though sometimes the line can become blurred. Appellants from ‘safe’ countries may not even be offered an oral hearing; the Tribunal may make its decision on the papers alone. This is something KOD Lyons will always oppose given the clear ‘interest of justice’ implications here and in light of the legal principle, audi alteram partem. As with the initial S.35 interview, appellants can be waiting months for an IPAT hearing date, by which time many may have been in the country for around 18 months or more.
If the IPAT affirms the decision of the IPO to recommend that the Minister refuse Refugee Status and/or Subsidiary Protection, then a further request to review a claim of Permission to Remain may be submitted to the IPO. This submission attempts to highlight to the IPO how much the appellant has become engrained in Irish society and how they have built a new life here, free from persecution. This can include evidence of work and social connections, efforts to undertake education here, evidence of adults and children becoming involved in their communities, medical treatment being sought here, etc.
If, following all of the above options being exhausted, the IPO still refuses to make a recommendation to the Minister to grant permission to stay in Ireland, the asylum seeker will be issued with a letter containing three options: (1) voluntarily return to their country of origin, (2) comply with a deportation order, or (3) submit further humanitarian grounds submissions for consideration. At this point, and assuming there have been no judicial review options throughout, this is pretty much the end of the asylum-seeking process. The asylum seeker must leave any IPAS accommodation that has been provided and must comply with any directions issued by the Minister thereafter to leave the country.
In the alternative, if some form of asylum has been recommended, then the Ministerial Decisions Unit will write to the asylum seeker informing them that they have been declared a refugee, have been granted subsidiary protection, or have been granted permission to remain here on a stamp 4 bases, and that they may now attend their local immigration office to receive their Irish Residency Permit card.
Once granted Refugee Status, the asylum seeker is entitled to the same entitlements as any Irish citizen and may apply for a passport upon the passing of 3 years from the date of their application for asylum (the decision is retroactive). If granted Subsidiary Protection, the applicant must wait 5 years from the date they receive the final decision to apply for a passport, this is not retroactive and attracts less entitlements than Refugee Status.
The asylum process is then at an end.
If you would like to enquire further about the asylum process, or any other human rights matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org