Country Report: Overview of the main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 30/11/20
This report was previously updated in March 2019.
- Length of procedures: The International Protection Office continues to process cases, with an increase of approximately 30% in the numbers claiming protection in 2019 (4,781) when compared with the previous year (3,673). Persons whose circumstances fall outside the prioritisation criteria will likely be waiting between 8 to 10 months for their substantive interview, whilst applicants who successfully request prioritisation should be interviewed within 4 to 5 months.
- Decentralised international protection interviews and videos via video-link: A small number of applicants for protection have been offered the possibility of conducting their substantive international protection interview via video-link, from a remote location. The opportunity for this depends on where the applicant is geographically located and the applicant is not obliged to accept the offer of such an interview. In addition, a small number of face-to-face interviews were also held outside of Dublin in 2019, in Tipperary Town, under a pilot process.
- Access to the procedure: Media reported in December 2019 that "Airlines have been told to take such individuals back on a return flight before any opportunity to claim international protection arises." The Irish Refugee Council wrote to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, in January 2020 requesting clarification about these instructions, criteria used and how they adhere to Ireland’s legal obligations. A written response from the Department of Justice stated that the purpose of checks on arrival was to determine if a person is allowed leave to land rather than any assessment of asylum. A freedom of information request made by the Irish Refugee Council for information on the policies and procedures on this issue was declined.
- Implementation of the provisions of the recast Reception Conditions Directive: Ireland has transposed the recast Reception Conditions Directive into Irish law through the enactment of the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018. The extent to which the provisions of the Regulations have been implemented in practice varies.
- Absence of a vulnerability assessment: The Regulations provide for a vulnerability assessment, however no standardised assessment was carried out in respect of applicants throughout 2019 and none has been implemented to date despite this being a clear requirement of the law.
- Living conditions in Direct Provision and complaints to the Ombudsman: Since 2017, the Ombudsman has jurisdiction to hear complaints from residents of Direct Provision accommodation centres regarding the conditions of facilities, amongst other matters. The Ombudsman received a total of 168 complaints from residents in Direct Provision in 2019, a year on year increase of 10.5%. 82 complaints were presented against the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS), of which 33 related to transfers from one centre to another, 14 related to standards in the accommodation, 5 to involuntary removal, 5 to food, 4 to facilities, 2 to transportation, 2 to complaint handling and 17 related to other issues. The Ombudsman also raised concerns about the size of rooms which people occupy and the potential for overcrowding.
- National Standards on Direct Provision: The final draft of the National Standards on Direct Provision was published by the Working Group on National Standards in August 2019. Building on the Report of the Working Group to Government on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers (“McMahon Report”), the National Standards are designed to constitute a set of standardised rules for every Direct Provision accommodation centre in Ireland and aim to improve and ensure consistent conditions, support and services across all Direct Provision centres, taking a more person-centred approach to reception than the current system. The National Standards will apply and be legally binding from 1 January 2021.
- Reception capacity and the increasing use of emergency accommodation: Capacity in the Direct Provision system continued to be a significant issue, with increased use of emergency accommodation to house protection applicants. The housing crisis in Ireland has exacerbated the situation meaning that a significant number of persons who have been granted a protection status or permission to remain have been unable to move out of Direct Provision accommodation due to a lack of available and affordable housing. As indicated above, there was also an increase in the number of persons claiming protection in Ireland compared to 2018.
Content of international protection
- Family reunification: The second call for applications under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme Humanitarian Admission Programme 2 (IHAP) opened from 20 December 2018 until 8 February 2019. This scheme provided an opportunity to Irish citizens and persons with Convention refugee status, subsidiary protection status, and programme refugee status, who have immediate eligible family members from the top 10 major source countries of refugees, to propose to the Minister for these family members to join them in Ireland. The scheme, in a very limited way, addressed the consequences of narrowing the definition of “family member” under the International Protection Act, 2015. At the time of writing this report, it is understood that 80 decisions are outstanding under the scheme, despite an intention indicated by the Department of Justice that decisions would be issued by the second quarter of 2019.