The Chairperson of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal , Barry Magee, has issued a Guidance Note relating to access to Refugee Appeals Tribunal decisions. From March 11th 2014, any person can now access the Tribunal Decisions Archive (subject to registration, and information on how to register is available here).
This follows on from the exceptional criticism of a particular Tribunal Member by Judge Maureen Harding Clark in January 2014 (summary here). The actions of Chairperson Barry Magee are to be welcomed and highly commended. With the appointments of a new Chairperson and some new Tribunal members in November 2013, it is hoped that this commitment to openness and transparency will continue. While this will not be a panacea to cure all ills in Ireland’s refugee and subsidiary protection status determination mechanisms (see here ), it does evidence the willingness for a more open and transparent refugee decision making process.
The fact that this guidance provides appropriate anonymised open access to decisions, further emphasises the past poor practice of those within the Refugee Appeals Tribunal who had sought to operate under a veil of secrecy. In terms of accessing administrative justice in Ireland (see here and here), it is hoped that this will be an impetus for other such bodies, such as the Social Welfare Appeals Office, to publish appropriately anonymised decisions (see here).
The Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) determines whether a person is need need of asylum in Ireland. It is an appellate body, so that those who are not granted refugee status by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC). The RAT has come in for sustained criticims previously (for primers see here, here, here and here). In the High Court last month, Mrs Justice Maureen Harding Clark delivered judgment on how one Tribunal member of the RAT dealt with one particular case. In A.A.M.O (Sudan) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Clark J. began the decision:
Sometimes the Court is called upon to review a decision which is so unfair and irrational and contains so many errors that judicial review seems an inadequate remedy to redress the wrong perpetrated on an applicant. This is such a case.
The asylum seeking applicant (A.A) in this case was a Sudanese national (see here ) and had applied for asylum in Ireland in 2009. Mr A.A. was a medical doctor, was attacked by Sudanese security forces, had relocated but subsequently had to flee Sudan. ORAC refused Continue reading “The Refugee Appeals Tribunal in Ireland”
Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council
In October 2012, a report entitled ‘Difficult to believe: the assessment of asylum claims in Ireland’ was published by the Irish Refugee Council, analysing the approach taken by both the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) to applications for asylum. The report was based upon research undertaken between June and September 2012.
Of the 86 files included in the research, ten were claims by children (Six girls and four boys. One was a claim for family reunion and did not give rise to any issue under the Refugee Convention). Of these, three were born in Ireland to parents who were already in the asylum process. Children born after the parents claim asylum are required to claim asylum in order for the family to receive additional support for the child through the Reception and Integration Agency. This means without applying for asylum, the child would not be entitled to accommodation or the €9.60 allowance. The oldest of the three was just five months old when her father was interviewed about why she had claimed asylum. The claims of all three children were dismissed on the grounds that the credibility of their parents’ applications had already been held to be lacking in credibility.
In the case of a Nigerian woman who feared that her daughter would be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), one of the reasons for dismissing the child’s claim was that the mother had failed to disclose in her application that she had applied for asylum in Italy. As the mother’s credibility had been dismissed in an earlier application, ORAC stated:
It follows that there is no credible objective basis to the fear attributed to the applicant by her mother.
In the combined appeal of the other two children, there was Continue reading “Assessment of Credibility in Protection Claims from Children”
The Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) do not make their decisions publically available. In 2006, two barristers resigned resigned amid allegations of secrecy of the RAT and allegations of inconsistency in decision-making. The Supreme Court decided in 2006 that previous relevant decisions had to made available to legal representatives of those appearing before the RAT. Unlike similar refugee status determination bodies in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, decisions of the RAT are not available to the public at large. To ensure public confidence in the refugee status determination system, such decisions should be made publicly available, with identifying features of the refugee applicant redacted. As was stated by McDonagh in 2005, this would lead to more confidence in the refugee appeals system in Ireland. With the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill (see here) to come before the Irish Parliament in the near future, this is the ideal opportunity to have a general rule, subject to limited exceptions, that decisions of any reformed refugee appeals system are published. In the mean-time, RAT should make its decisions publicly available, which is the norm in most other developed countries.
Who is a refugee?
A refugee is somebody who is outside her country citizenship, or the country where she formerly lived, and is unable or unwilling to return to this country as she fears persecution on the basis of her race, nationality, religion, membership or a particular social group or political opinion. This is the definition set down in the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees. In Ireland, this definition is set down in Section 2 of the Refugee Act 1996. If an asylum seeker is recognised by Ireland as a refugee, she has a right to reside in Ireland, the right to work, the right to claim social assistance, the right to enter further education and the right to bring certain family members to Ireland.
Who is an asylum seeker?
“Let us remember that a bogus asylum-seeker is not equivalent to a criminal; and that an unsuccessful asylum application is not equivalent to a bogus one.”- Kofi Annan
An asylum seeker is a person who claims to be in need of refugee protection but whose claim for refugee status has yet to be determined. In Ireland, an asylum seeker’s claim for refugee status is determined by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC). If ORAC does not recognise a person as a refugee, she can then appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT). Legal advice and legal representation is provided to asylum seekers by the Refugee Legal Service, which is a specialised office in the Legal Aid Board.
While awaiting her claim to be processed and decided, an asylum seeker is prohibited from working. She is accommodated in the direct provision system, where she receives bed and board, along with a payment of €19.60 per week (and €9.60 per week per child). An asylum seeker is not entitled to any other form of social assistance payment while in Ireland. Asylum seekers are entitled to free health care, and child asylum seekers or child dependents of asylum seekers are entitled to the same right to education as Irish children. Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants and are entitled to remain in the state until such time as their refugee claim has been granted or rejected. The recognition rate of asylum seekers as refugees in Ireland is just under 2%, the lowest recognition rate in the European Union.