Oireachtas A/V room presentation: Direct Provision and the International Protection Act, Tues 21st, 6-6.30pm

The introduction last month of a new asylum application procedure has created chaos for thousands of people living in Direct Provision. This Tuesday 21st March, MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland), ARN (Anti-Racism Network), with supporters Wendy Lyon (immigration solicitor) and Donal O’Kelly (playwright) will describe the impact of this new procedure and other aspects of the new International Protection Act.

Last month, the IPO (International Protection Office) launched the single application procedure for asylum seekers in Ireland. In early February the IPO sent a 60-page questionnaire form to over 3000 people in the asylum process to be returned within 20 days, including legal counsel. This new procedure was supposed to increase the efficiency of Ireland’s asylum process. It has, according to those affected, been a ‘shambolic disaster’. Lack of clarity about the deadline, the paralysis of the swamped Refugee Legal Service, the difficulties of retrieving documentation, poor translations of of the form are just some of the obstacles people have had to deal with as they complete a form determining their future and the futures of their children.

The IPA has introduced sweeping changes to Ireland’s immigration law. Many of its provisions seem designed to undermine the internationally recognised right to seek asylum. While the Department of Justice insists that the single procedure will speed up the asylum process, fears that this will be achieved through accelerated deportations, unmonitored refusals, and defective, erratic assessment processes are being proven all too accurate. Vicky Donnelly of Galway One World Centre observes: “While Trump’s ‘travel ban’ has, quite correctly, been criticised by politicians here, Ireland has been quietly deporting people at the border before they can even make a proper case for asylum. At a time of unprecedented crisis, when a focus on human rights is most needed, the IPB appears purpose-designed to facilitate and speed up deportations. History will judge us harshly unless we recognise these issues and act to correct them.”

As Lucky Khambule of MASI notes: “Direct Provision is often called the Magdalene Laundries of our time. This state-sanctioned institutional abuse will undoubtedly be the subject of inquiry in years to come. The isolation of people in DP is allowing this new system to be rolled out with disregard for the rights of those seeking asylum to transparent rights-based process.”

This presentation gives Ireland’s legislators the opportunity to hear from people directly affected by the new Act. Asylum seekers will describe what is happening right now, and what legislators can do to ensure that future generations do not look back to this time and wonder how nothing was done.

While the presentation takes place inside, RAMSI Refugee and Migrant Solidarity Ireland will gather in solidarity outside Leinster House from 5.30pm.
https://www.facebook.com/events/1902258200063894/ 

Contact:

Lucky Khambule (MASI) 0899669010

Dr Anne Mulhall 0872213150

Dáil Q&A with Minister for Justice and Equality

QUESTION NOS:  86, 88, 89 & 102

DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald) by Deputy Catherine Connolly

Thursday, 23rd February, 2017.

 

*  86.  To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that have been issued with IPO 2 forms to date; the process being followed for the issuing of these forms to persons in direct provision; when others can expect to receive these forms and the sequence in which they will be received, that is alphabetical, random or decided according to the stage at which their asylum or claim for protection is, currently; the steps that will follow for each individual asylum seeker following submission of the new forms; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Catherine Connolly

*  88.  To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of protection officers currently employed; the nature of the training they have received; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Catherine Connolly

*  89.  To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the provisions that have been made for the processing of a large number of IPO 2 forms; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Catherine Connolly

*  102.  To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will extend the timeframe for completion of the new asylum seeker application form which is causing confusion and stress in view of the fact that asylum seekers are unable to navigate the new 60 page form and access the suggested legal advice within the 20 day deadline period..

– Clare Daly

REPLY.

I refer the Deputies to my response to Questions 112 and 113 of Tuesday 21 February in which I explained the background to the issue of the Application for International Protection Questionnaire (form IPO 2)  and dealt comprehensively with the issue of the time afforded to applicants for protection to complete the questionnaire.

A comprehensive information process has been put in place by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the new International Protection Office to ensure that protection applicants and their legal representatives are aware of the provisions of the International Protection Act, 2015 and particularly how it will impact on protection applicants who are affected by the transitional arrangements. The transitional arrangements apply to certain applications for refugee status and subsidiary protection which were made before the commencement date (31 December, 2016) and were not finalised for processing by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT).

The planning for the commencement of the Act took place during 2016, involving consultation with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and correspondence with applicants alerting them to the transition arrangements. I am informed by the Chief International Protection Officer that, as is required by the 2015 Act, in late January/February 2017 the IPO, in addition to placing advertisements in the national media, wrote to approximately 3,000 applicants whose cases were not finalised by the ORAC or the RAT, to inform them of the commencement of the relevant provisions of the 2015 Act and how the transitional provisions would affect their applications.  All applicants received the following documents with the mailshot:

  • Information Note – Transitional Arrangements (IPO 12),
  • Information Booklet for Applicants for International Protection (IPO 1) and,
  • Application for International Protection Questionnaire (IPO 2).

I understand that the relevant mailshot was sent on an incremental basis initially to both adult applicants in Direct Provision and to those with private addresses. That information was sent out first in English followed by material in 17 other languages. Forms are currently being sent out to minors who have applications in their own right.

On 30 January 2017, the IPO wrote to all legal representatives on record, providing comprehensive information on the new legislation.  In addition, notices were circulated to Direct Provision centres in relation to the mailshot.

I am also informed by the Chief International Protection Officer that he has held a number of meetings with NGO’s and the UNHCR over recent months, through the IPO Customer Liaison Panel, to brief them on the arrangements for the commencement of the Act and for the notification of applicants in relation to the transitional provisions and how these will be operated in practice.

Early access to legal advice is a recognised success factor in the operation of a single applications procedure and the position in with regard to the Legal Aid Board and its role is set-out in my response to PQ Number 87 also for answer today.

In order to ensure applicants had sufficient time to familiarise themselves with this new system, there is no deadline, statutory or otherwise, set in any correspondence sent out by the IPO. I can inform the Deputies that the information sent to applicants in January/February 2017 made clear in Paragraph 7.3 that the Application for International Protection Questionnaire (IPO 2) should be returned “if possible, no later than 20 working days from the date of the covering letter”. The next paragraph 7.4 went on to state clearly that opportunities to add to the information supplied exist up to two weeks before the scheduled interview. The word deadline or statutory deadline does not exist and no negative consequences for failing to meet an ‘if possible’ time frame were included or implied.  The twenty working day time frame reflects the willingness of the IPO to begin work on the new single procedure as soon as possible in respect of legacy applications.

I am happy to restate that this is purely an administrative time-frame and NGOs and service providers have been informed of that throughout the planning process. Flexibility is being provided by the International Protection Office, a call centre is available to answer any queries and if extra time is required for its completion, as the wisdom of accessing legal advice is stressed in the questionnaire, no impediment or disadvantage exists to prevent the careful filling out of the new single application form. I understand, so as to remove any false impressions that may be circulating abroad that the ‘if possible’  time-frame is some sort of statutory deadline, the IPO has again written to the members of the Customer Liaison Panel in the past few days to confirm the arrangements and that similar clarification is being provided on the IPO website.

Applicants have also been clearly advised, as referred to above, that should they or their legal advisors need to provide supplementary information to the International Protection Office after the they have submitted the questionnaire, they can also do so, up to two weeks prior to the date of their scheduled interview, if possible. This timescale will facilitate the translation of documents if required and ensure that the IPO interviewer has all their papers available and considered in advance of the interview date.

In relation to the processing of cases, when the application for International Protection Questionnaire and other supporting documentation is returned by applicants, I am advised by the Chief International Protection Officer (CIPO) that he intends to schedule applications in the IPO primarily on the basis of date of application (oldest cases first). The prioritisation of international protection applications is provided for in the International Protection Act 2015 subject to the need for fairness and efficiency. The CIPO intends to publish a Statement shortly on the planned approach to prioritisation, having consulted the UNHCR and relevant NGO’s on the matter.

There are over 100 staff assigned to the IPO at present all of whom have been authorised to perform the functions of international protection officers. These staff will be used to support the single procedure process and in undertaking a variety of functions such as the registration and fingerprinting of applicants, the issue of Temporary Residence Certificates, the scheduling of cases for interview as well as interviewing applicants and preparing and issuing international protection recommendations and decisions in relation to permission to remain. The permanent staff are supported by a Panel of some 35 persons with legal expertise who are retained on a contract for service basis to undertake interviews and prepare international protection recommendations and permission to remain decisions.

In relation to the issue of training, Deputies will wish to be aware that all staff employed in the IPO, as well as Panel members, have previously served in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner so they have considerable expertise in the protection area. In addition to this expertise and training already provided, case processing staff and Panel members in the IPO have received substantial training on the assessment of applications in the context of the introduction of the single procedure process and more training is planned over the coming weeks. Such training is provided by a combination of in-house experts in that Office as well as by the UNHCR. In this regard, UNHCR protection and training experts have been located in the ORAC for the purpose of supporting the protection determination process there for a number of years. In the context of the single procedure, a UNHCR expert from Canada with considerable expertise in the operation of a single procedure process is currently working in the IPO for the purpose of developing internal procedures, providing protection training and supporting quality assurance systems. That international expert is supported by other UNHCR experts as required.

You will appreciate that the commencement of the International Protection Act 2015, which provides for the introduction of the single application procedure, represents the most fundamental reform of the international protection process in the State for nearly two decades. Therefore it is essential that no statutory deadline is imposed on applicants by the IPO. The single procedure process, unlike the previous process which  involved multiple bodies and procedures, will result in a more streamlined approach contributing to the determination of status for applicants at a much earlier stage than has been the case to date, and consequently, shorter stays in the Direct Provision system.

While it is recognised that, for a transitional period, applicants will be required to become familiar with the new arrangements, I can assure the Deputies that support will be provided by the International Protection Office and other relevant State authorities to ensure that clarity is available to applicants on the new arrangements and how they will impact on individual cases. 

QUESTION NO:  87

*  To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the resources that have been made available to services such as the Legal Aid Board to assist asylum seekers with the lengthy IPO 2 forms; the means by which asylum seekers have been made aware of such steps; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Catherine Connolly

REPLY.

I am informed that since the commencement of the International Protection Act, the Legal Aid Board has committed to providing all international protection clients with early legal advice on all aspects of their application (including, for example, Asylum, Subsidiary Protection and Permission to Remain). The provision of the Board’s service is consequently front-loaded to the first instance stage (pre-questionnaire and interview).

The Board uses a mixed model of service provision in international protection cases, i.e. a proportion of cases are referred to solicitors employed by the Board, and a proportion of cases are referred to private practitioners on a fee per case basis.

International protection clients receive a full information consultation before completing their questionnaire, wherein the provisions of the Act are explained, their own obligations as applicants are outlined and the requirements of the questionnaire are explained in full.

All clients are provided with a further consultation pre- interview in which legal advice on the particulars of their claim based on their completed questionnaire is given and submissions are drafted and made to the IPO.

Significant additional funding to provide for 15 full time staff for the Legal Aid Board has been provided by my Department. In addition, the budget assigned by the Board for Private Practitioners in International Protection cases has been increased.

The Legal Aid Board’s contact details have been included in correspondence from the International Protection Office to applicants and information on the service provided by the Board is available on the Board’s website, www.legalaidboard.ie. 

Letter to: Irish Refugee Council, Nasc, Doras Luimni, Jesuit Refugee Service, Crosscare, Migration Rights Centre Ireland, Cori, Immigrant Council of Ireland, ENAR

URGENT APPEAL TO ASYLUM SEEKER SUPPORT & ADVOCACY NGOS RE. INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION APPLICATION DEADLINE CLARIFICATION & EXTENSION

We are contacting you in relation to the acute crisis that is unfolding for asylum seekers applying within the new IP process, to see if there is the possibility of collectively pushing for an official clarification from the International Protection Office and/or extension of the deadline for applications.  As you will be aware, the new single procedure is being rolled out and thousands of people in the asylum system have now been sent the new 60-page International Protection application form IP02 to complete. You will be aware of the level of panic, distress and despair that this new form has created in the DP centres and no doubt for people in the protection process who are not in DP. As far as people in the centres are aware, they have to complete and return these huge and complicated forms within 20 days. They are attempting to do this with absolutely no legal support or advice in the vast majority of cases. The Refugees Legal Services, private solicitors, and NGO-provided legal services are all completely flooded to the point that they are telling people to fill in the questionnaire themselves or are simply not responding to people’s emails or phone calls. In many cases, where people have private representation, they are unable to access their documentation as their solicitors have this material and are not responding to them.

The situation is dreadful and the asylum seeker-supporting organisations are aware of all the above. It seems that the 20 day deadline is not a ‘statutory’ deadline and now people are being advised by some organisations and solicitors to contact the IPO saying they have been unable to contact their solicitor or legal services, and that they cannot submit their application until they have done so. Others are advising that people submit the incomplete form with a note giving evidence and explaining that they have attempted to contact legal services.

It is very unclear, however, what would then happen if people took one of these routes. People in the centres do not believe that either of these options will have no negative effect on their application. The only thing that people trying to advise and help with the application form disaster in the centres can see will help is an official clarification from the IPO and/or the Ministers about the deadline for the forms.

To this end, we are contacting you to see if there is a way for us to exert pressure on the IPO (1) to clarify that people who cannot meet the 20-day deadline and who take one of the routes described above will not be adversely affected in terms of assessment of their application for protection and (2) ideally, for the IPO to officially extend the deadline (statutory as it may be), given the severe dearth of legal support available to the thousands of people desperately seeking it at this time. Notice of such a clarification/extension could be communicated to people in the centres and system via RIA. At this late, past-urgent stage, clarification and communication via these official channels is the only course of action that asylum seekers will be able to listen to without fear of fatally damaging their cases. We ask you as key migrant and asylum seeker support & advocacy NGOs to act together to strongly request that the IPO/Dept. of Justice take these very reasonable steps to clarify this chaotic situation.

Yours sincerely,

MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland

Endorsed by:
ARN
RAMSI

Campaigners call on Minister Frances Fitzgerald to issue urgent clarification and extension of deadline for shambolic new asylum seeker application system.

PRESS RELEASE

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

Ends

Procurement and Management of Contracts for Direct Provision

6.1 International and European law provides for the granting of international protection to those who cannot return to their country of origin because they have a well-founded fear of persecution or are at risk of being ill treated or subjected to other serious harm. Individuals who apply for international protection and are awaiting a decision on that application are referred to as asylum seekers.

6.2 There are two types of international protection in the EU

  • refugee status is given to persons who demonstrate a fear of persecution in their home country due to certain aspects of their identity, such as religion or political opinion.
  • subsidiary protection status derives from European law and is given to persons who do not qualify as refugees but who, nevertheless, cannot return home because they risk facing serious harm, such as torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or generalised violence in a war.

Read full report here: Procument and management of contracts of direct provision 2015

An open letter to Minister Francis Fitzgerald TD from MASI

Dear Minister,

Last week the 23rd August 2016 we learned with shock of the tragic death of a young Korean resident in the Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre in Cork. We first of all once again extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers remain with her and her loved ones who are struggling to comprehend this terrible event. Continue reading

A young mother dies at a direct provision centre in Cork

On Tuesday the 23rd August 2016, we learnt with shock and regret the passing away of a young Korean mother who resided at Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre at about 8:15pm. Circumstances that lead to her death are still not accurately clear at this stage as we believe an autopsy still needs to be conducted. From our talks with her close friends and residents, the body of this young mother was discovered by the security in her room just behind her door. We can’t disclose further confirmed details at this stage.

Residents at the centre got together on Wednesday the 24th August 2016 to discuss the incident and to decide on the way forward to deal with the situation as a group. One official for CCP also attended this meeting to offer her support to the residents. It was evident from the meeting that residents were aggrieved, shocked, sad and angry about the situation and the way they felt it was being handled. Continue reading

Response to Minister Fitzgerald

This week Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald claimed that the inhumane system of Direct Provision is “here to stay.” She said this in spite of the universal recognition that this system is not fit for purpose and seriously violates our human rights. The effects of Direct Provision on those of us experiencing it are long-lasting and multiple: poverty, social exclusion, malnutrition and lack of access to education and developmental opportunities.

Continue reading

Ask Us What We Want – On ‘Reforming’ Direct Provison

aboriginal-protest

To reform or not to reform, that is a question:

This is the breeder to hate

This is the breeder of poverty

This is the breeder of racism

Continue reading

Learn to Listen from the Bottom. Writing on Direct Provision

1549566_1017237674959747_2092182028378802720_n

Give me education department, I will reform it; give me Health services department I will reform it; give me Justice Department I will reform it. But don’t try and reform a system that is not meant for good purpose that is not meant for long term that is not meant to keep people for many years and destroy their lives. Direct Provision is just a system that was never meant to exist from the word go. Whoever came with this idea the first time must have been misguided somehow. So how on earth can you begin to reform such a system which has no future on society? When Direct Provision was initially introduced in Ireland in 2000, it was a system that was supposed to be in existence only for six months. As soon as it started it was evident that it was a system that was not going to work. Even the then Minister of Justice and Equality agreed that it was not the cleverest of the decision the government made.

Continue reading

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