NUI Galway LLM Researchers Recommend Statutory Time Limits for Decisions on International Protection Applications

Jul 08 2021 Posted: 12:14 IST

On Monday 5 July 2021, five LLM researchers at the Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR), NUI Galway, presented the Minister for Justice with a Submission entitled ‘Introducing Timelines into the Irish International Protection System: A Path Towards Accountability and Transparency.’ The Submission advocates the insertion of statutory time limits for decision-making into the International Protection Act 2015: the legislation which governs Ireland’s international protection system. A number of further recommendations, summarised below, are also included in the Submission. The research was carried out in collaboration with Evgeny Shtorn, sociologist, activist and representative of the Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland (MASI), as part of the work of the Human Rights Law Clinic at the ICHR. 

The Submission contains a foreword by Siobhán Mullally, Established Professor of Human Rights Law at NUI Galway, Director of the ICHR, and the current United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children. Mullally states: “Clear, precise recommendations are set out here, identifying the steps needed to move from policy reports and recommendations to effective implementation.” 

Introducing Timelines to the Irish International Protection System 

An additional foreword is provided by Mohammad Shafiq, University of Sanctuary scholar and LLM candidate at the ICHR. 

As the partner community organiser, Evgeny Shtorn, sociologist, activist and representative of the Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland (MASI), states:  

Last year we were working with the students of ICHR on the rights of the children in direct provision. That was of huge concern, but it wasn't affecting me directly as I am not a parent myself. This year we approached the issue of time-frames, which is something that affects absolutely everyone in the asylum process, and leaves an unbearable trace in our memories. No one will be able to give me back that time. It needs to be addressed as soon as possible, and I'm so glad we have built this strong and robust argument that will be hard to ignore

An original poem by Evgeny Shtorn is also featured in the LLM researchers’ Submission. 

The Submission, Introducing Timelines to the Irish International Protection System: A Path Towards Accountability and Transparency, builds upon recent developments concerning the international protection system in Ireland. Despite the welcome reforms that are envisaged by the White Paper to end Direct Provision, the researchers draw attention to the amount of time that an international protection applicant waits for a final decision and is left in a state of uncertainty and limbo. Currently, the median processing time for a first instance decision from the International Protection Office is 17.6 months. The median time for a decision on an appeal is a further 9 months. The students draw upon literature concerning the detrimental effects of such uncertain and prolonged waiting on the wellbeing of persons in similar settings. In light of this, they find that the current situation is not compatible with Ireland’s obligations under international human rights law, European Union law, or domestic law.  

The Submission further draws attention to the lack of communication and transparency, the culture of distrust and the backlog of applications which inhibit the fairness and humanness of the Irish international protection system. Overall, it is the authors’ objective to advocate for specific time limits to be incorporated into the International Protection Act for each phase of the international protection procedure, and for these to be implemented in conjunction with a number of safeguards which ensure the quality of the procedure and that the rights of protection applicants are upheld. 

The Submission makes the following recommendations: 

  • Anyone who has been in the system for longer than two years (from the date when the time limits are implemented) should be granted permission to remain without prejudice to their ongoing protection application. 
  • Ireland should opt-in to the Recast Asylum Procedures Directive (Directive 2013/32/EU) and ensure its timely transposition into national law. 
  • Ireland should legislate for time limits in the international protection procedure. Drawing from EU standards and previous literature, the authors advocate for a statutory time limit of 4 months for Phase One Accommodation, 6 months for the first instance decision by the International Protection Office, 6 months for the decision by the International Protection Appeals Tribunal, and one month for the granting of the Ministerial Decision.    
  • An online portal which includes an interactive timeline, in which an asylum seeker can see the progress of their application, and have direct access to relevant information should be created. 
  • To ensure the quality of the decision-making process, an auditing mechanism, accreditation services for interpreters, increased resourcing of the Legal Aid Board, and vulnerability assessments for special reception and procedural needs, should be guaranteed. 

The Submission was authored by Sarah Donnelly, Anna Ledwith, Amanda Morrison, Emma-Louise Steiner and Semiha Elif Yararbaş, under the supervision of Dr. Maeve O’Rourke and Cillian Bracken BL, as part of the Human Rights Law Clinic at the ICHR. The Clinic offers students an insight into the concept of ‘movement lawyering' by giving them the opportunity to work with a community-based organization that strives for social change. The Submission was produced with the helpful insight and guidance of Evgeny Shtorn of MASI.