Justice Committee welcomes proposals to reform asylum process

Committee publishes Interim Report on draft legislation on International Protection

2 July 2015

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has broadly welcomed legislative proposals to reform the asylum process, in an interim report containing 21 observations on the General Scheme of the International Protection Bill.

The Minister for Justice and Equality forwarded the General Scheme of the International Protection Bill to the Joint Committee on 26 March 2015, inviting it to comment on the proposed legislation.

In order not to delay the publication of the Bill, the Committee agreed to publish an Interim Report on this Scheme, highlighting some of the key issues brought to the Committee’s attention by stakeholders. The Report, published this morning, was informed by a range of submissions received from interested organisations and individuals, following a call for public submissions.

Some of the observations contained in the Interim Report include:

  • In relation of the Head defining ‘acts of persecution’ the Committee observed that there may be an issue regarding the absence of a reference to “domestic violence”.
  • In relation to processing times and access to work, the Committee notes that it is not entirely certain what happens to the applicant if the timeframe for a decision exceeds six months. The Submissions advocated that consideration should be given to allowing applicants the permission to work pending the final determination of his/her application.
  • The definition of ‘member of the family’ and does not extend a right to family reunification in respect of de facto partners. Concern has been expressed that a sponsor’s application for international protection may have been based on the risk of persecution because of their sexual orientation and it would be unrealistic, in these circumstances, to expect couples to have married or be in a civil partnership prior to the sponsor fleeing their country of origin.
  • In relation to the Head outlining requirements for a medical examination, the Committee notes a lack of clarity regarding who covers the cost of such an examination and in addition, the lack of specified consequences if an applicant does not consent to undergo a medical examination.

Committee Chairman David Stanton TD says: “The issues of migration and asylum have presented many new challenges in these times. New crises overseas have increased the numbers of applications for international protection exponentially. In addition, the challenges faced by EU Member States in the Mediterranean further underline this crisis. The main challenge in drafting legislation in this area lies in striking a balance between the humanitarian need to assist those in serious and grave danger and a process which provides a timely decision.

“Modern times require modern and optimised rules for the examination and processing of asylum requests. This Draft Scheme seeks to do just that and the Committee is glad to have had the opportunity to examine these issues and seek the views of stakeholders.. Given the importance of this legislation, the Committee will continue to examine some outstanding issues and may produce a more detailed Report in the autumn addressing remaining points and issues.”

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Committee Membership
Niall Collins (FF)
Alan Farrell (FG)
Anne Ferris (LAB) [Vice-Chairman]
Seán Kenny (LAB)                
Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (SF)
Gabrielle McFadden (FG)
Finian McGrath (IND)
Fergus O’Dowd (FG)
David Stanton (FG) [Chairman]

Ivana Bacik (LAB)
Martin Conway (FG)
Tony Mulcahy (FG
Rónán Mullen (IND)
Denis O’Donovan (FF)
Katherine Zappone (IND)