Minister says new legislation for asylum seekers ‘a priority’

The cost of meeting judicial reviews taken by asylum seekers and other legal costs totalled €5.8 million last year — and was paid by the State’s Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).

Minister says new legislation for asylum seekers ‘a priority’

In a written Dáil response, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, confirmed that according to the latest figures, there are 900 judicial reviews by asylum seekers currently in direct provision accommodation, in the system.

There are currently 4,353 asylum seekers in 34 centres across the State under contract to the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), with 727 new entrants to the direct provision system last year. Between 2005 and 2013, the RIA has spent €690m on the direct provision system.

In her written response, Minister Fitzgerald confirmed that the cost of judicial reviews declined from €6.3m in 2012 to €5.8m last year.

She said: “While the downward trend in costs is very welcome, I am concerned with the overall high number of judicial reviews within the system. It is clear that the multi-layered and sequential processes associated with the current protection system and the related delays in finalising protection decisions are key contributors to those high numbers.”

Minister Fitzgerald added: “In that regard, legislating to establish a single protection procedure is a priority in that it will provide the legislative framework for removing the structural delays which are a feature of our existing protection system. I am particularly anxious, therefore, to ensure that legislation in this area is brought forward this year .

However, Minister Fitzgerald said: “There are no plans to grant an amnesty to asylum seekers based on the length of time spent in the asylum system.”

The minister stated that such broad regularisation programmes are problematic “in particular as they could give rise to unpredictable and potentially very costly impacts across the full range of public and social services”.

She said: “Clearly there would also be significant issues in allowing illegal immigrants access to the labour market in the context of the very large number of people unemployed in the State. Similar issues would arise in respect of access to the housing market and its related supports.”

The minister also pointed out that “in very many instances the delay in finalising cases is due to applicants challenging negative decisions by initiating multiple judicial reviews at various stages of the process. Thousands of applications cannot be finalised because of these legal challenges. Moreover, many other failed protection applicants do not leave the State when subject to a Deportation Order”.

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