Minister Shatter announces that processing of applications for Subsidiary Protection cases to recommence immediately

New Regulations coming into force tomorrow (14 November 2013)

Transfer of responsibility for processing applications to Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC)

New arrangements to include interview of applicants

Introduction of appeal mechanism

Internal resources redeployed to deal with caseload

Legally qualified panel to assist ORAC with processing applications

UNHCR to assist with training and implementation of new processing regime

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has signed into law new Regulations, the European Union (Subsidiary Protection) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No. 426 of 2013), governing the investigation and determination of applications for subsidiary protection in the State. The Regulations will come into effect on 14 November 2013.

The Regulations have been made to address certain matters which arise from the judgment of the High Court in January 2013 in the case of MM and the Minister for Justice & Equality, Ireland and the Attorney General (No.3) (Record No. 2011/8JR). Pending consideration of the complex issues associated with the judgment and the making of the new Regulations, the processing of some 3,800 subsidiary protection claims was put on hold in the intervening period.

The Minister said, "Since taking Office one of my main objectives in the asylum, immigration and citizenship areas has been to reduce backlogs and the length of time applicants are waiting for decisions on their applications. We have already seen huge improvements in the Citizenship area. Visa applications are also processed in a matter of days in the great majority of cases. The intention now is to achieve similar results in the area of subsidiary protection and to bring it into line with the asylum area where new applications are processed to completion within 8 months.

"By its very nature, the processing of applications for international protection is a solemn and complex task which does not always lend itself to achieving speedy outcomes. Quite obviously, the outcome of applications can lead to life-changing events for applicants. However, once the new arrangements have bedded down, my aim is for subsidiary protection applications currently on hand to be processed to finality by the statutory bodies concerned in the shortest possible time-frame consistent with quality and fair assessment of all cases and of course, subject to the co-operation of applicants and no further legal impediments arising. In those circumstances I would anticipate very significant inroads to be made on the caseload by the end of 2014."

New arrangements to include interview of applicants

Unlike the current arrangement for the processing of applications for subsidiary protection, which is an entirely paper based exercise, the new Regulations provide for applicants to be interviewed as part of the first instance investigation of their application. In addition, in the event of a negative recommendation following the first instance investigation of their case, they will have the opportunity of an appeal. Under the Regulations, responsibility for the processing of applications for subsidiary protection, both new cases and those on hand, will transfer from the Minister for Justice and Equality to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. Appeals will be dealt with by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Both of these offices are statutorily independent in their functions and they have substantial experience in the area of asylum applications investigations and appeals respectively.

Persons with subsidiary protection applications pending with the Minister were contacted in recent weeks to advise them that the introduction of the new arrangements was imminent. With the making of the Regulations, applicants will soon be again contacted to explain the new arrangements for the processing of their applications. The processing of applications on hand will commence with immediate effect. For the avoidance of confusion or misunderstanding, persons who have applications for subsidiary protection pending may remain in the State.

Panel of legally qualified persons to assist

With a view to achieving this target, the Minister said that he has made arrangements to establish a panel of legally qualified persons to assist the Refugee Applications Commissioner with the processing of the substantial number of applications already on hand. In addition, some redeployment of staff from the Minister's Department to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner has taken place. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner Refugees which provides assistance from time to time to the Commissioner's Office in the area of staff training and quality assurance will also be involved in the training and implementation effort.

While legal advice and representation is already available to applicants for international protection from the Refugee Legal Service, additional resources are being made available to the Legal Service in anticipation of increased levels of service likely to be sought by applicants, commensurate with the enhanced subsidiary protection process now being put in place.

The new Regulations will be available on the websites of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner today (www.inis.gov.ie and www.orac.ie).

Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill

The new Regulations that apply from tomorrow are an interim measure to address an area of immediate difficulty. Ultimately, following the publication and enactment of the new Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, a single procedure will be put in place, under which a person's application for protection (refugee and subsidiary protection status) and any other reason he or she may present to remain in the State will be considered. It is expected that this legislation will be enacted during 2014.

13 November 2013

ENDS

Note for Editors

What is subsidiary protection?

Subsidiary protection is granted to a person in respect of whom substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person concerned, if returned to his or her country of origin, would face a real risk of suffering serious harm as defined in the Regulations and who is unable or, owing to such risk, unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, and who is not excluded from being eligible for subsidiary protection.

Serious Harm means -

(a) death penalty or execution,

(b) torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of a person in his or her country of origin, or

(c) serious and individual threat to a civilian's life or person by reason of indiscriminate violence in a situation of international or internal armed conflict.

Who can make an application for subsidiary protection?

A person who does not qualify as a refugee following consideration of his or her asylum application in the State may apply for subsidiary protection.