Lives of asylum seekers ‘wasted’ due to application delays

Asylum seekers are facing "systemic and pernicious" delays in having their applications processed, resulting in years of their lives being wasted, the national human rights body has warned.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will highlight the problem at the UN next month when Ireland’s record on human rights issues in general is put under the spotlight

Betty Purcell, acting chairwoman of the commission, said a process meant to take six months was taking five to 10 years for many applicants.

“How can we as a society account for the wasted years families and children spend in direct provision centres caused by these delays?” she asked

“Long stays in direct provision centres with little or no money, denied privacy, the right to work, or access education if not of school-going age, is having an enormous impact on the dignity and mental and physical well-being of residents.”

She said the problem was compounded by the lack of an independent appeals procedure, pointing out that laws meant to reform the asylum process were promised in 2008 but had yet to be delivered.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an amalgamation of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority. Legislation is going through the Oireachtas to put the body on a statutory footing.

It compiled an extensive report on Ireland’s human rights record, to be presented to the UN’s human rights committee on July 14 and 15.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission says issues raised the last time the country’s record was reviewed by the UN, in 2008, remain unresolved.

Siobhán Mullally, a member of the commission, pointed out that the vaccine trials inquiry had collapsed in 2004 because of legal challenges by potential witnesses, while the inquiry into the death of prisoner Gary Douche had only reported this year after eight years. This was the same sort of inquiry intended to probe the mother-and-baby homes controversy, she added.

“The McAleese inquiry into the Magdalene laundries was non-statutory and although the Taoiseach’s apology and promise of an ex gratia compensation system are welcome, they do not correspond to human rights remedies,” Prof Mullally said.

“A prompt, thorough, and independent inquiry with the powers to establish the truth and lead to timely remedies for victims is still outstanding.”

Other issues highlighted include discrimination against Travellers, the Roma community, and other minority groups; disadvantages suffered by people with disabilities; and weaknesses in legislative protection against racism.

The commission is also calling for greater independence for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. “It is important that GSOC be insulated from ministerial control by being made accountable to the Oireachtas and independent in its functioning and budget.

“Complaints should encompass not only alleged misconduct by members of An Garda Siochána but include poor standards of service and alleged violations of human rights and equality,” said a statement.


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