UN urges Ireland and UK not to leave asylum seekers in ‘legal limbo’

UN urges Ireland and UK not to leave asylum seekers in 'legal limbo'

The UN’s refugee agency has urged the Irish and UK governments not to leave asylum seekers in “legal limbo” amid an escalating diplomatic row.

The Irish government this week announced plans to bring forward legislation designating the UK as a safe country to which asylum seekers can be returned.

Ministers say 80 per cent of asylum seekers arriving in the State in recent months have come across the land border with the UK, i.e. via Northern Ireland, though the Irish Refugee Council has challenged the government to explain how it calculated this figure.

The legislation is necessary because the High Court found in March that the UK’s post-Brexit designation as a safe country for asylum returns was not made in line with EU law.

In a statement issued this morning, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stressed that “international cooperation is essential to effectively manage the movement of refugees and asylum seekers across international borders”.

It continued: “Ireland and the United Kingdom have legal obligations under national and international law in relation to those who arrive at their borders seeking asylum. UNHCR urges the two governments to ensure that individuals are not left in a situation of legal limbo.

“To designate a safe third country, certain conditions must be met. These include that people who are returned have access to a fair and efficient asylum procedure, be authorised to remain in the country while a status determination is made and can access their rights.

“The application of the third safe country concept also requires an individualised examination of the specific profile and circumstances of each individual, while a meaningful link should exist between an asylum seeker and the third country to make a transfer reasonable and sustainable.”

The statement concluded: “UNHCR acknowledges the challenges currently facing the Irish government in light of an increase in the number of individuals applying for international protection in Ireland, some of whom may have entered from the United Kingdom.

“UNHCR calls on the Irish government to ensure that those seeking asylum in Ireland continue to have the possibility to do so, in line with international and European law.

“UNHCR also continues to call for practical and workable alternative solutions in the United Kingdom, in the spirit of responsibility-sharing, which lies at the core of the Refugee Convention.”

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