Under the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended, the office of the refugee applications commissioner is responsible for considering applications for a declaration as a refugee at first instance and the refugee appeals tribunal is responsible for consideration of appeals.
The information sought by the Deputy and covering the period 1 January, 2001 to 31 October, 2001, which is the most up to date information available, is set out in the following tabular statements. In relation to the first ten months of this year, there were 8,461 asylum applications compared to 9,080 applications in the first ten months of 2000 – 6.8% decrease.
I have been informed by the office of the refugee applications commissioner, ORAC, that, since July 2001, cases scheduled, processed and completed significantly exceeded intake. In July, 961 applications were received, 1,473 interviews were scheduled and 1,072 cases processed. In August, 983 applications were received, 1,543 interviews were scheduled and 1,407 cases processed. In September, 855 applications were received, 1,594 interviews scheduled and 1,145 cases were processed and in October, 892 applications were received, 1,213 interviews were scheduled and 1,506 cases were processed.
These figures provide a clear indication that the increase in processing capacity which has been put in place as part of the Government's strategy is starting to make a real impact on the backlog of cases on hand and will help to progressively reduce processing times on an incremental basis.
As I informed the House in my reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 110, 125 and 930 of 3 October, 2001, it is expected that by the end of this year all outstanding cases from 1998 to the end of 2000 will have been scheduled for interview with the overwhelming majority processed to finality. Thus, from the end of this year, the ORAC will effectively be focusing mainly on applications submitted in 2001. Already some applications made in May 2001 have been scheduled for interview.
In relation to appeals, I have been informed by the refugee appeals tribunal, RAT, that it now expects to complete approximately 3,600 appeals in 2001. As with the ORAC, having regard to the increased processing capacity which has been put in place as part of the Government's strategy, there has been a significant increase in the number of hearings scheduled with over 3,000 hearings expected to be scheduled for 2001, to end of year compared with 1,119 for 2000.