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Asylum System Reform

Young participant at Africa Day 2013 in LimerickAdvocating for a fair, transparent and efficient asylum process that respects the dignity of asylum seekers and their families.

JRS Ireland works to bring about positive structural changes to the asylum system that directly benefit persons in need of protection. 

It is widely accepted that the Irish asylum system has historically been ‘not fit for purpose’ with applicants spending years in the system with no end in sight.

JRS Ireland advocated for years that the root problem was the fractured and unwieldy structure of the asylum determination process which  led to a situation where a significant number of asylum seekers waited excessive periods of time with their lives effectively on hold.

The significant constraints relating to work, income and education that asylum seekers must endure whilst residing in Direct Provision are exacerbated by delay.  Prolonged periods of residence can result in significant human costs, impacting on physical and mental health, on skills and training, family relationships and the ability of asylum seekers to participate in society. 

Life in Direct Provision, a system which may have merit as a form of short-term secure accommodation, effectively becomes inhumane and cruel if it has to be endured on a long-term basis. In the experience of JRS Ireland, the length of time people have to spend in the Direct Provision system is the single greatest challenge to our mission to accompany, serve and advocate for the cause of the forcibly displaced.

However, reform of the system is possible. 

In June 2015, the Working Group on the Protection Process published its final report (McMahon Report), which set out 173 recommendations for improvements to the asylum determination process, living conditions in Direct Provision and supports for asylum seekers. 

Since the publication of the McMahon Report, there has been considerable progress in resolving the situation of the more than 2,000 persons who were in the system continuously for 5 or more years.

However, the implementation of key recommendations relating to living conditions and supports, has been uneven and considerably slower.  Recommendations relating to cooking facilities and additional living space for families remained largely unimplemented until early 2017 and the increases in the Direct Provision weekly allowance fell far short of Working Group proposals.  The Government also initially rejected the Working Group recommendation that protection applicants should be able to access the labour market if certain conditions were met.  Progress is expected in 2018-2019 with the development and implementation of standards for the system of Direct Provision.

JRS Ireland continues to advocate for the full implementation of the McMahon Report to ensure respect for the dignity of all persons in need of protection.