On 31 December 2016, I commenced the International Protection Act 2015. This was the biggest reform to the system in twenty years and it introduced a single application procedure where all aspects of a person's application (refugee status, subsidiary protection status and permission to remain) are examined and determined in one process. Prior to this, the three strands were examined sequentially and this could lead to long delays in obtaining a final decision.
Upon the commencement of the 2015 Act, approximately 3,500 legacy cases were carried over to be dealt with under the new single application procedure (1,500 of these cases were from the former Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and 2,000 from the former Refugee Appeals Tribunal). A further 500 cases transitioned in the months following commencement. These cases would have been the longest in the system at the commencement of the Act.
The International Protection Office (IPO) committed to scheduling these legacy cases for interview by the end of 2018 and for completion by the end of Q2 2019, where possible.
The IPO achieved the first part of this commitment in 2018 by scheduling all transition cases for interview, where it was possible to do so. The vast majority of the legacy cases have now been processed to completion in the IPO, and the focus is now on post commencement single procedure cases.
Some legacy cases will continue to be dealt with including transition applicants who have not co-operated up to this point and are now re-engaging with the process, applicants who have come back into the process through Judicial Review, or for other reasons. These cases are prioritised and scheduled for interview at the earliest possible opportunity and processed accordingly.
New applicants arriving today at the International Protection Office (IPO), who complete their questionnaire, are being scheduled for interview as follows:
- for prioritised applications, within 5 months of application; and
- for non-prioritised applications, within 8 to 10 months.
Prioritised cases include applicants from refugee generating countries like Syria or Eritrea or from especially vulnerable groups like unaccompanied minors.
The IPO target is to issue its recommendation within 8 weeks after the interview. This is, however, dependent on the complexity of the case. The overall median processing time for applications processed under the International Protection Act 2015 to end August 2019 is 15.7 months with prioritised cases being processed in 8.7 months.
Processing times are being monitored on an ongoing basis and the IPO continue to work on means to further improve them. The aim is to reduce processing times for first instance recommendations to 9 months.