IHREC recommendations on International Protection Bill 2015 and Direct Provision

  • IHREC submits observations to Oireachtas on the International Protection Bill 2015
  • Commission strongly recommends implementation of Working Group on Direct Provision proposals without delay

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has circulated its legislative observations to members of the Oireachtas and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD on the General Scheme of the International Protection Bill 2015.

The IHREC carried out the review of the General Scheme of the International Protection Bill 2015 following a request from the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD.

One of the most significant reforms envisaged by both the General Scheme of the 2015 Bill and the Working Group on Direct Provision is the introduction of a single procedure for assessing a claim for protection, to streamline decisions on refugee and subsidiary protection applications.

Chief Commissioner Emily Logan said: “The introduction of a time limit of 12 months for decisions on protection status, along with the right to work for new applicants if a decision is not made within nine months, forms the overarching recommendations of the Working Group report.

“This will bring the situation in Ireland into line with the vast majority of our EU counterparts and hopefully reduce undue delays. However, these reforms will entirely depend on the enactment of the International Protection Bill 2015 and the new single procedure functioning as envisaged,” she said.

The Commission recommends that the Government formally commit to implementing the recommendations of the Working Group on Direct Provision, published last week, to enhance compliance with international human rights standards.

Ms Logan stated: “Judge Bryan McMahon and members of the Working Group have brought considerable expertise and insight to this report on direct provision and the protection process. The Working Group has delivered a practical report to Government which should now be acted upon without delay.

“As its next step, we recommend the Government establish an Implementation Group to give effect to the recommendations so that people seeking asylum in Ireland can live with a greater degree of respect and dignity.”

Ms Logan continued: “It is clear, however, that some of the reforms are no longer optional after a High Court finding, in November 2014, on the unconstitutionality of aspects of the direct provision system. The High Court found, for example, unlawful practices in the House Rules for residents, which interfere with their right to private and family life.

“The State now has an opportunity to address and rectify elements of the system which were held to be unlawful by the High Court last year, including the lack of an independent complaints procedure.

“This can be addressed by extending without delay the remit of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children to deal with complaints about the direct provision system, as recommended by the Working Group.”

“It is vitally important that the complaints process is sufficiently independent for any resident who may need to avail of it. It will also enhance confidence in the independence of the system and hopefully help to resolve any maladministration in a fair and efficient way”.

The Commission broadly welcomes the International Protection Bill 2015 in its submission to members of the Oireachtas and the Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD. However, its observations set out some concerns, particularly relating to the situation of vulnerable persons and children.

Best interests of the child: As currently envisaged in the General Scheme, the ‘best interest’ principle does not fully apply to unaccompanied minors or children who are going through the determination process. The principle of ‘best interests’ of children should not only apply to children who have already been granted refugee status or subsidiary protection.

The Commission recommends a general provision be inserted into the 2015 Bill which ensures that the best interests of the child will be a primary consideration at all stages of the decision making process. (pp. 9-10 of IHREC recommendations). These recommendations are also reflected in the Working Group report.

Assessment of Credibility: We recommend that any assessment of credibility should focus upon whether a protection claim is credible, rather than whether an individual is credible. (pp.29-30 of IHREC Recommendations below).

Detention: In the General Scheme, an immigration officer or a member of An Garda Síochána may arrest an applicant if they have reasonable cause to suspect they pose a threat to public security or public order or they have not made reasonable efforts to establish their identity. The IHREC recommends that, in limited circumstances, applicants should not be detained in prisons or police stations, but rather in centres specifically adapted for their needs and circumstances. (pp. 31-32 of IHREC Recommendations).

EU Recast Reception Conditions Directive: The IHREC also recommends that Ireland opt in to the EU Recast Reception Conditions Directive which requires that asylum seekers be allowed a limited right to work where first-instance decisions have not been made within nine months. (pp. 6-7 of IHREC Recommendations).

IHREC Legislative Recommendations on the human rights and equality implications of General Scheme of the International Protection Bill 2015 are available here:

http://www.ihrec.ie/news/2015/06/30/ihrec-recommendations-on-the-general-scheme-of-the/

The Commission’s Policy Statement on the System of Direct Provision in Ireland published in December 2014 available here: http://www.ihrec.ie/download/pdf/ihrec_policy_statement_on_direct_provision_10dec14.pdf.

Ends/

For further information please contact Niamh Connolly/Fidelma Joyce on IHREC 01 8589601/ 087 4399022. Twitter: follow us @_ihrec

Notes to Editors:

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) was established by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. The Commission has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights and equality in the State, to promote a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding and to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality. The IHREC is tasked with reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of law, policy and practice relating to the protection of human rights and equality and with making recommendations to Government on measures to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights and equality accordingly.

In December 2014, the IHREC issued a Policy Statement on the System of Direct Provision in Irelandwhich outlined ten recommendations for improvements to the system.

The IHREC was invited by Mr Justice McMahon to present to the plenary session of the Working Group in February 2015. Members of the Commission Professor Siobhán Mullally, Teresa Blake SC and Betty Purcell, attended the session to outline the Commission’s recommendations to the Group.

In June 2015, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued its Concluding Observations on the third periodic report of Ireland under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee made a number of recommendations to improve the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by asylum seekers while they await a decision on their application for protection including expediting the adoption of the International Protection Bill with a view to introducing a single procedure; improving living conditions in Direct Provision centres, including through regular inspections and making the private actors who operate the centres accountable for their actions and omissions; addressing the mental health issues of asylum seekers; and taking necessary steps to facilitate the integration of asylum seekers into society.

 

 

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