Controversial legislation which was guillotined through the Dail by Minister Frances Fitzgerald in December 2015 is this weekend causing extreme distress and confusion for hundreds of people caught within Ireland’s notorious direct provision system.

Since early February this year hundreds or even thousands of asylum seekers have been issued with complicated 60 page long application forms which they understand must be submitted within 20 days. It is recommended even by the new International Protection Office which issued the forms that people should get legal advice before submitting the forms because their claim for asylum will be judged according to the information provided therein.  However, because of the ludicrous situation where these forms have been issued and are still being issued to such high numbers of people at once the poorly resourced Refugee Legal Service has not been responding to people’s calls for assistance. Furthermore, some asylum seekers who have been appointed solicitors or secured their own have already passed case files and important documentation to these people and cannot now access them in time to submit them with the forms in advance of what they believe is a fixed deadline.

Vicky Donnelly the Coordinator of Galway One World Centre who has witnessed the situation in Direct Provision Centres in Galway said

‘It’s hard to imagine a more cruel and shambolic implementation of the new system. The Minister must step up and clarify the situation, and provide the resources required to facilitate people through the process.’

Kyle Phiri who is himself in this situation had this to say:

 ‘Everyone is very distressed we don’t have enough time or legal advice to complete the form. Some of the legal advisers we have been able to get in touch with  are not even sure of the right  way to respond to the questionnaire. There are some of us out here who were told to go fill the form on our own event though we have been  assigned lawyers. What’s the whole point of having a lawyer if we can’t rely on them “

Lucky Khambule of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland has called for an immediate clarification to be made by the Minister for Justice,

‘In direct provision centres all around Ireland people are distressed and struggling with these forms- people are trying their best to fill them in and trying desperately to get advice on them without success. There are many conflicting bits of information circulating about what people should do because of the impossible deadline with some having been advised to submit incomplete forms and not miss the deadline and with others advised that they should contact the International Protection Office to say they won’t make the deadline. Whilst the 20 day deadline is not statutory this is completely unclear to the people in the centres. It is a shambles and causing extreme mental stress to those concerned.  These application forms are the most important part of a person’s attempt to seek asylum here and any errors or mistakes can have the most serious consequences up to and including deportation. What is needed urgently is a communication from the International Protection Office and the Minister concerned that extends or removes the deadline and makes it clear that there will be no adverse consequences for people who are unable to submit their applications in time. The distress caused to people by this is inexcusable, and all the more so because it was completely unnecessary.

Campaigner and Council of State member Ruairi McKiernan who along with other campaigners including MASI and the AntiRacism Network Ireland, opposed the introduction of this bill said, ‘To have this level of chaos and confusion allowed to spread unchecked amongst vulnerable people is more than inefficiency –it is a clear disregard for their well-being. The Government needs to take it upon itself to make the situation immediately clear to all of those seeking asylum in Ireland. There should be a statement posted on the website of the International Protection Office to ensure asylum seekers that there will be no adverse consequences to them from this failure in communication and process and an immediate statement from Minister Frances Fitzgerald on what steps she is taking to address the situation.’

For comment please contact Lucky Khambule, Coordinator of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, on 0831713166

Or Vicky Donnelly on 0872645344