The Act was adopted following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and includes, inter alia, amendments to immigration and international protection related legislation.
With regard to employment permits, section 13 of the 2020 Act amends section 10(2) of the Employment Permit Acts 2006 to provide that UK citizens can continue to be included in the Ireland/EEA employee count for the 50/50 rule which requires employers to ensure at least 50% of their workforce are from Ireland/EEA or the Swiss Confederation.
One of the key features of the 2020 Act was a mechanism to replace the Dublin III mechanism to deal with cases where a person arrived in the State and made an application for international protection having previously been in the United Kingdom (whether as an international protection applicant or otherwise). The 2020 Act now includes expanded grounds for deeming applications for international protection from such persons inadmissible, allied with a returns procedure intended to secure the removal of such persons from the State to the United Kingdom. Section 21(2) of the International Protection Act 2015 as amended by section 119 of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2020 has a new category of inadmissible application, namely where the person arrived in the State from a safe third country that is, in accordance with subsection (17), a safe country for the person. The International Protection Act 2015 (Safe Third Country) Order 2020 (S.I. No. 725/2020) designated the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a safe third country for the purposes of the International Protection Act 2015 (effective from 11pm on 31 December 2020).
For applications which are deemed inadmissible under this new ground, the 2015 Act as amended by the 2020 Act goes on to set out a new return order procedure. A new section 50A of the 2015 Act (as inserted by section 120 of the 2020 Act) sets out the prohibition of refoulement in respect of an application for international protection determined under section 21 to be inadmissible.
Section 51A of the 2015 Act (as inserted by section 121 of the 2020 Act) introduces a new “return order” into Irish law, providing that the Minister shall make a return order in respect of a person whose application has been deemed inadmissible.
Generally, return orders are valid for 6 months from the date notification of the order is sent (section 51C(2)), but this can be extended up to a maximum 12 months from the date notification is sent where the person absconds (section 51C(3)). If the person brings judicial review proceedings in respect of the return order, and the court grants injunctive relief, the validity of the order is extended to six months from the final determination of the court (section 51C(4)). However, if a return order expires without the person having been returned, the person is deemed to have made an application for international protection in the State pursuant to section 15 of the 2015 Act (section 51C(5)).
Section 51B sets out the arrangements that may be applied to facilitate the return of the person who is the subject of the return order. This includes reporting requirements, requirements to reside in a particular place pending return, surrender of passport/travel documents pending return, and arrest and detention for a maximum period of 7 days if a member of An Garda Síochána (national police) deems there to be a significant risk of absconding. Detention does not apply to minors.
Related secondary legislation also came into effect from 31 December 2020:
- The International Protection Act 2015 (Return Order) Regulations 2020 prescribe the return order to be issued under section 51A of the International Protection Act 2015.
- The International Protection Act 2015 (Section 51B)(Places of Detention) Regulations 2020 set out the places of detention for the purposes of section 51B of the International Protection Act 2015 (all Garda Síochána stations and Cloverhill Prison, Dublin)