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.
MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland