The Report of the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Process has been published. It recommends that Ireland moves away from a system that views international protection as a temporary phenomenon, and instead puts in place a permanent system that accepts the need to process around 3,500 new applications annually. The new system should be in place from mid-2023, following a transition period to process the current case load and avoid any legacy backlog.
The Advisory Group stresses the need for a permanent “whole of Government” approach with regular political oversight at the level of a Cabinet Committee. A focused Implementation Plan involving all Departments and agencies involved should be convened and an independent body created, to monitor progress and to evaluate the functioning of the system.
Some legislative changes will be necessary and new legislation should be in place by the end of 2021. It is recommended that Ireland opt into all of the current EU asylum legislation, subject to a review of implications such for the Common Travel Area with the UK.
Key recommendations include:
- Shorter processing times for international protection applications. First instance decisions should be taken within 6 months of the date of application, with a 6-month deadline for the appeals stage of the process.
- Accommodation for applicants should be provided in one or more State-owned reception centres for 3 months, after which applicants should move to own-door accommodation under the responsibility of the local authorities. Weekly allowances should be replaced by a housing allowance and some social welfare payments as appropriate.
- “Aged out” unaccompanied minors should remain the responsibility of Tusla.
- Appropriate accommodation should be provided for victims of trafficking and sexual or gender-based violence.
- The current 5-day period for deciding whether to accept voluntary return should be extended to 30 days and financial supports for those who choose voluntary return should be doubled.
- The State should develop a strategy for dealing with unsuccessful applicants who are deemed “non-returnable.
- The IPO should be resourced to process a greater share of cases in-house. Applications forms should be simplified, and interviews continue to be decentralised.
- The Legal Aid Board (LAB) should be resourced to support around 3,500 new applications annually, from the reception stage until a final decision has been taken, including, if required, the judicial review stage.
- A comprehensive person-centric IT case management system should be developed.
- Increased regulation of interpretation in the process.
- Applicants in the international protection system should have the right to access higher education on the same basis and at the same level of fees as Irish citizen.
The Advisory group argues that Ireland should seek to promote the integration of those seeking international protection into local communities from the earliest stage in the process. The ongoing involvement of local authorities and communities stressed as essential for integration.
The Minister for Justice has indicated that the report’s recommendations will inform a new White Paper due to be published by the end of 2020. The White Paper, which will be prepared by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, will set out options for the replacement of the Direct Provision system.
For more information, see a related press release here.