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Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 17 April 2008

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Questions (49)

Joan Burton


40 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied with the manner in which the Refugee Appeals Tribunal discharged its functions in the wake of a case (details supplied) and attendant publicity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14042/08]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal is a statutory independent body established under the Refugee Act, 1996 to deal with appeals against negative recommendations in respect of applications for refugee status issued by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC). The Tribunal has been in operation since November 2000 and comprises a full time Chairperson and 32 part-time members at present.

Since its establishment, the Tribunal has undertaken a significant job of work having completed some 30,000 appeals up to the end of March 2008. I would also point out that the cases before the Refugee Appeals Tribunal cover applicants from over 90 different countries with a large variety of grounds being put forward for refugee status. All cases have to be considered individually having regard to the definition of who is and who is not a refugee in the Refugee Act, 1996. In addition to the applicant's own case which is often considered in an oral appeals hearing, a large amount of documentation has to be considered including complex country of origin information, UNHCR guidelines and detailed case law from our courts. All of this must be weighed up by the individual members of the Tribunal in coming to a decision.

I would also point out that the UNHCR is heavily involved in training within the asylum process and within the Tribunal itself. I would also draw the Deputy's attention to comments made previously by a former UNHCR representative who is quoted as saying that Ireland is now a model for the new Member States of the European Union and that "we now have a system which, in many respects, is one of the best in Europe".

Given the Tribunal's statutory independence in the performance of its functions under the provisions of sections 15 and 16 of the 1996 Act, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on how it discharges its functions. Accordingly, I do not propose to comment on any individual case or group of cases handled by the Tribunal or any legal issues arising from such cases.