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Sunday, 5 June 2011

Irish government: 'we're getting the wrong sort of asylum seeker'; UN investigates Irish treatment of refugees

Source: Irish Refugee Council

The Department of Justice’s explanation that Ireland’s low recognition rate is due to the profile of asylum seekers received ignores the fundamental flaws in the current system, says the Irish Refugee Council. The IRC made the comment in response to statements by Department of Justice officials  replying to the UN Committee Against Torture which has been examining Ireland’s human rights record.

Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) says:
“In the IRC’s experience, it is not that Ireland does not get the ‘right’ sort of asylum seeker, it is that people seeking protection in Ireland simply do not get the ‘right’ kind of protection system. This fails the Irish people as much as it fails those who seek protection.”
The Department of Justice’s argument is based primarily upon the top 5 nationalities which, for a long time, have made the most applications for asylum in Ireland. But a comparison with other European countries with a significant number of applicants from those countries shows that nationality cannot account for Ireland’s low recognition rate.

According to Eurostat figures, 20% of applicants (385 individuals) in Ireland came from Nigeria, 12% from China and 10% from Pakistan. By way of comparison, the largest number of applicants in Italy are also Nigerian nationals, making up 14% of applications. The second largest are Pakistani,  at 9% of all applications. Despite similar country breakdowns, Italy has an above average recognition rate of 38%. Switzerland, with an acceptance rate of 42%, received 1,970 applications from Nigerians, or 13% of applications. In short, the two other European states who receive similar applicants had recognition rates that were well above the European average.

Sue Conlan adds:
"Our poor record of recognition cannot be easily explained away by the ‘quality’ of applicants here. In the experience of the Irish Refugee Council, three factors are contributing to the below average rate. First, the culture of disbelief which means that facts irrelevant to the question of persecution are held to undermine the credibility and result in a negative verdict.  Second, the checks and balances which are set out as minimum standards for all EU countries and which help offset the negative assumptions about those applying for asylum are not in place here. Third, the system lacks an effective, truly independent appeals mechanism." 
“It is as a result of these errors or omissions that it is often essential for lawyers to challenge negative decisions in the courts. Any delays in the court system or on the part of the Department of Justice in processing claims for subsidiary protection or leave to remain are not the responsibility of either asylum seekers or their lawyers. Any suggestion to the contrary is disingenuous.”
The IRC is lobbying for urgent reform of the asylum system. Key priorities for the Council are a single procedure for the consideration of both asylum and subsidiary protection claims; more transparent decision-making; a robust independent appeals system; and an end to delays.


Rights Groups Tell UN of Ireland's "Failure" to Combat Inhuman and Degrading Treatment

Source: Irish Council for Civil Liberties

Top United Nations experts 20 May heard directly from Irish human rights groups concerned about the State’s track record in preventing inhuman and degrading treatment.

At a high-level UN meeting in Geneva, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) outlined the findings of their Joint Shadow Report on Ireland under the United Nations Convention against Torture, which highlights serious weaknesses in Ireland’s systems to prevent inhuman and degrading treatment.

The Joint Shadow Report identifies serious shortcomings in relation to critical areas including: access to a lawyer during Garda questioning, prison conditions, safeguards against deportation and effective rehabilitation services for victims of torture. It makes fifty clear recommendations on the actions which must be taken to address these deficiencies in human rights protection in Ireland.

The Report, co-written and jointly published by the ICCL and the IPRT, is part of an independent civil society response to the State’s own 2009 report to the Committee against Torture, which glosses over gaps is Ireland’s human rights safeguards and remains mute on the situation in our prisons.

At the launch, the ICCL and IPRT issued a joint call for the Government to establish effective and independent complaints and inspection systems for places where people are deprived of their liberty.

Speaking at the Dublin launch of the Joint Shadow Report, Mark Kelly, Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said:
“International action to combat ill-treatment is never effective unless there are strong national mechanisms to monitor places where people are deprived of their liberty.  Ireland has yet to establish effective complaints and inspection mechanisms that would satisfy United Nations human rights quality standards. Until it does, the systemic problems identified in this report will not be solved.”
Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust added:
“Incredibly, given the national and international reports on overcrowding, lack of in-cell sanitation, and escalating inter-prisoner violence, the State report is largely silent on these acute human rights issues within the prisons. There is an urgent need for an independent complaints mechanism for prisoners, and an independent system for the investigation into deaths in prison. The NGOs present in Geneva will be calling on the UN Committee to make clear directions to the Irish Government to address these longstanding deficiencies in Ireland’s human rights protections.”
John Stanley, Chairperson of the Irish Refugee Council said:
“Ireland also has the lowest recognition rate for refugees in Europe and it is impossible to exclude the risk that some people with a well-founded fear of persecution may be returned to places where there is a risk of torture and ill-treatment.  With no independent oversight at ports of entry, there is a real fear that immigration officers may be refusing entry and returning persons with valid protection claims on the next plane.”

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