Ten months on, implementation of key recommendations has been slow and inadequately resourced. The progress in resolving the situation of those more than five years in the system is most welcome, but considerable work remains to be done to ensure all who could, will benefit. Worryingly, delays are again growing significantly at the earlier stages in the protection process.
Eugene Quinn, National Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland, who was a member of the Working Group, highlighted the growing delays in the protection process and a failure to provide required resources for case processing bodies. During 2015, the average processing time has doubled from 15 to 30 weeks for first instance cases before the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and by the end of the year pending cases had more than trebled to 2,582. In the same period the average processing time for refugee appeals increased from 49 weeks to more than 70 weeks. The Refugee Appeals Tribunal had 1,685 live appeals on hand at the year end. This was despite the fact that both organisations increased the number of completed decisions by 50% over the year.
Mr Quinn said:
The average time to process a refugee status determination to completion is now two years. The transfer of more than 4,000 existing pending cases to the new single procedure will lead to further delays. The failure to provide required resources to eliminate existing backlogs and to process new asylum claims more speedily will undermine the single procedure before it commences. Inevitably, the excessive delays that characterised the Irish protection process for over a decade will continue. Although there has been welcome progress in resolving cases more than five years in the system, progress has been slower than anticipated because the case processing resources identified by the Working Group have not been allocated in full.
Above all, a failure to implement and resource key Working Group recommendations will inevitably impose heavy human costs on the individuals, families and children who, as a consequence of continuing delays in the protection process, will be compelled to live for prolonged periods in Direct Provision. Mr Quinn concluded:
In light of the indisputable evidence for reform provided in the Working Group report, a continued failure to fully implement key recommendations and to invest the necessary resources, will inevitably result in the lengthy waiting times and unsuitable living conditions for asylum seekers continuing, with all its associated human costs. The time to act is now.
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