Dáil Éireann - Volume 649 - 04 March, 2008

Written Answers. - Asylum Process.

Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he shares the view expressed by the Minister of State with responsibility for integration that cases taken by a voracious group of barristers were responsible for the grief and difficulty surrounding the asylum process; if he has raised this issue with the Bar Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8995/08]

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: I presume the Deputy is referring to remarks attributed to the Minister for Integration which were reported in the media in January of this year.

I should point out at the outset, that notwithstanding the lower number of applications in recent years, significant levels of abuse continue in our asylum process. In the region of 90% of asylum applications are determined to be unfounded after the exhaustion of all possible appeals. I say this to remind the Deputy that we can never become complacent about ensuring the integrity of our asylum processes and to demonstrate that there will always be individuals [121] who will cynically seek to exploit the system in a way that distracts our attention from the needs of the genuine asylum seeker.

It is against this background that the current level of Judicial Reviews is a genuine cause for concern. In my view, it is clearly evident that many people use the Judicial Review process simply in order to prolong their stay in the State. As the Deputy is probably aware, delays in finalising cases in the asylum area can occur for a variety of reasons, including giving applicants and appellants the fullest opportunity possible to present their cases and the determination of Judicial Review proceedings, where such a course of action is pursued. However, it is a reality that the large scale of Judicial Reviews currently taken does contribute to significant delays in the processing regime.

It is important that the refugee status determination process in Ireland is not seen as being any less robust, when compared to that in other countries, by those who would wish to use it as a means to enter Ireland outside of the normal immigration channels. Delays in the process, however they are caused, could lead to such a view being formed. I understand that a small group of legal firms are responsible for a significant percentage of judicial reviews lodged in the asylum area and that many of the statements of grounds of these judicial reviews are of a generalised or non-specific nature. The understandable concern in relation to many of these cases is that legal action is being pursued with the primary intention of frustrating the determination process and delaying the finalisation of the processing of applications where the decision would almost certainly be that the applicants are not in fact in need of protection in Ireland.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill (which recently passed Second Stage in this House) comprehensively reforms and simplifies the current system through the introduction of a single procedure for the investigation of all grounds including protection ones put forward by applicants for protection. This reform of the processing framework will lead to the removal of the existing multi-layered and sequential process and will allow an applicant to get a final decision on their application in a more timely and efficient fashion. Along with other provisions in the Bill, this reform is intended to reduce the time taken to process each case to finality which is in the interests of the applicant and the protection of the integrity of the application process.

In conclusion, I have no difficulty in discussing these issues with the Bar Council and the Law Society and it is my intention to do so.