Asylum seekers will not be disadvantaged by failing to meet 20-day deadline



Wendy Lyon
Wendy Lyon

Asylum seekers will not be disadvantaged by failing to meet a 20-day deadline to submit complex application forms to the new International Protection Office, the Department of Justice has said.

However, Dublin solicitor Wendy Lyon said the Department had failed to take responsibility and to issue a clarifying note directly to applicants.

Yesterday, Irish Legal News reported on “great panic” among applicants trying to submit the forms within the specified time.

The application forms were sent out to some 3,000 applicants earlier this month, leading to reports of free refugee legal services being overwhelmed by the volume of calls.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told ILN today: “As is clearly stated on the form, applicants are requested to respond within 20 working days if possible.

“There is no suggestion that a failure to meet this deadline will result in applications being disregarded or otherwise disadvantage the applicant. There is also specific provision in the form for supplementary information to be provided subsequently.

“It is of course in the interests of everyone, not least applicants themselves, that all supporting information is provided in a timely fashion in order to aid the consideration of their cases in as efficient a manner as possible.”

Ms Lyon, who specialises in immigration and refugee law, said the response avoided responsibility for the current situation.

She told ILN: “T​he ‘if possible’ is followed by ‘no later than 20 days’ - in bold type. As a native English speaker, I would take this to mean that I would need a very good reason for returning it more than 20 days out.

“When so many people (protection applicants, solicitors, and frontline NGO workers) have stated that the wording is causing panic, the Department of Justice needs to take responsibility. It needs to immediately issue a clarifying note directly to all applicants.

“It also needs to reflect on how to prevent things like this from happening again. It could start by having  meaningful engagement with the people who are actually going to have to complete these questionnaires or assist those who do.”