Lawyers under ‘severe pressure’ over implementation of new asylum laws

Wendy Lyon
Wendy Lyon

Lawyers and asylum seekers have called on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to urgently address international protection application issues arising from the “shambolic” implementation of the International Protection Act 2015.

Dublin solicitor Wendy Lyon, who specialises in immigration and refugee law, told Irish Legal News that there is “great panic” among applicants because of a 20-day deadline for application forms to be submitted to the new International Protection Office.

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) said hundreds or possibly thousands of people were issued with 60-page application forms in early February.

Ms Lyon told ILN: “People already in the system, who have already completed a lengthy questionnaire, are now receiving an even lengthier questionnaire which also needs to be completed. The letters accompanying the questionnaire state that they have 20 days to return it to the International Protection Office.

“In fact the IPO has assured us they will accept late applications where the applicant is unable to consult with their solicitor before the deadline, but applicants haven’t been told this and there is great panic among them. Practitioners are also being placed under severe pressure due to the number of clients needing this advice all at once.

“Our concerns about this were flagged up at the time the bill was going through the Houses, but it was rushed through anyway.

“It’s hard to see how protection applicants can be ensured the quality of representation they should be entitled to under these circumstances. Perhaps that was the intention.”

Lucky Khambule, speaking on behalf of MASI, added: “What is needed urgently is a communication from the International Protection Office and the Minister concerned that extends or removes the deadline and makes it clear that there will be no adverse consequences for people who are unable to submit their applications in time. The distress caused to people by this is inexcusable, and all the more so because it was completely unnecessary.”

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