My objective, and that of my Department, is to have decisions made on international protection applications and permission to remain considerations as soon as possible. This ensures that those who are found to be in need of our protection can receive it quickly and begin rebuilding their lives here with a sense of safety and security.
I welcome the key recommendation of reducing processing times for both first instance decisions and appeals to 6 months each respectively, as far as possible, in line with the recommendations of the Catherine Day Expert Advisory Group. Work is underway in my Department towards achieving this objective, which includes an end-to-end process review of the international protection and related immigration processes.
Notwithstanding the progress being made on implementing the recommendations, there are certain current constraints and challenges for my Department in delivering some of the recommendations of the Advisory Group for reduced processing timelines given the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on current operations.
In 2020, 1,566 people sought international protection by making an application with the International Protection Office (IPO). Regarding cases that were brought to a finality during 2020, a total of 2,141 persons had a Ministerial decision made in respect of their application last year. This figure reflects the year in which the decision was made and not the year in which the application was made.
On 1 January 2020, there were a total of 5,957 cases on hand at the IPO and a total of 1,558 appeals cases on hand with the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT). A total of 491 cases were pending with the Ministerial Decisions Unit (MDU) of my Department on 31 January 2020 (the figure for 1 January 2020 is not available). The MDU of my Department processes the recommendations received from the IPO and the decisions of the IPAT.
On 1 January 2021, there were a total of 4,996 applications on hand at the IPO (this figure does not include approximately 290 cases which were returned for processing following legal proceedings). There were 1,655 appeals cases on hand with the IPAT on that date and 538 cases pending with the MDU.
In addition, the Permission to Remain Review Unit in the IPO had a total of 505 cases on hand on 1 January 2021. These are cases where a protection applicant can make submissions for consideration as part of a formal permission to remain review. This review is in place to provide for situations where an applicant’s circumstances may have changed in a material way since the initial decision was made by the IPO to refuse permission to remain. Statistics for 1 January 2020 are not available for PTR cases on hand.