The bill, published last week, aims to reduce the length of time asylum applicants spend in the direct provision system through establishing a single applications procedure for international protection.
The IRC’s criticism comes just days after CEO Sue Conlanleft the Government’s working group on the asylum-seeker protection process, after the Government published the Heads of the International Protection Bill “without allowing the working group to have sight of or discuss the most significant changes in refugee law in Ireland for almost 20 years”.
The IRC said it was “concerned” about the over-riding purpose of the bill.
While it welcomed the early identification of refugees, it said the ‘single procedure’ element “is as much, if not more, concerned with speedy decisions leading to deportation as it is with early identification of refugees”.
“The emphasis should be on a ‘single protection procedure’ to ensure that people at risk of persecution or serious harm are granted permission to remain in Ireland,” said the IRC. “Only when that has been fully completed should there be any consideration of other reasons that could give rise to Ireland’s obligations under other international conventions.”
Ms Conlan said the bill should not be used as a means of enforcing immigration control.
“The lengthy delays in the current system are not simply the result of a lack of a single procedure but are also the result of a system that views asylum seekers in Ireland not as refugees but as economic migrants,” she said.
“In addition, the complete absence of any reference to ‘direct provision’ in the bill is a lost opportunity given that this is the most significant reform of asylum law in Ireland since the Refugee Act 1996 and direct provision has been the source of both national and international criticism since its introduction 15 years ago.”
The Department of Justice said it was “regrettable” the IRC stepped down from the working group.
However, it pointed out that now that the bill was published, “there was an opportunity for interested parties to provide any comments to the department on the proposal”.