A long festering problem in the Irish asylum industry has been the issue of repeated and mostly cynical appeals by bogus applicants. With rejection rates averaging 75% prior to covid, and outright fraudulent applications from safe nations like Albania and Georgian overloading the system, this paralysis has been a source of much ire both from those wanting to clamp down on as well as to liberalise the asylum process.
Like most problems the logjam is facilitated by lawyers and a constellation of government agencies, falling over each other to administer what should be a clear cut service. While the Left fixate on property consortiums running Direct Provision, very little attention is paid to the lawyers profiting from the asylum arrangement and the long cycle of appeals.
In 2019, €4,196,234 was spent handling asylum tribunals adjudicating on appeals alone, falling to €3,304,122 in 2020 with the onset of the pandemic. In the same year 2,633 separate appeals were processed by the State with the number falling to 1,418 in 2020.
Examining annual reports from the Appeals Tribunal and related statistics, The Burkean set out to see who is profiting from this bottleneck.
The Asylum Process
Those seeking to claim asylum in Ireland first contact the International Protection Office (IPO) for an initial decision on their claim.
An interview is conducted within a week of their arrival with a Temporary Residence Certificate issued and accommodation provided by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA). Commonly known as Direct Provision there is no obligation for asylum seekers to use RIA accommodation, with applicants enjoying partial access to the labour and welfare system, regardless of whether their claim is being processed or an appeal ongoing. Following on from this, a second interview is conducted to validate the veracity of the asylum claim with a ruling subsequently made by the IPO after a period of on average 170 days per application.
During the entirety of the process, the applicant has the ability to utilise free legal assistance provided by the Legal Aid Board. As of the time of publishing the Board had not responded to a freedom of information request regarding the specifics of asylum claims and their costs.
If approved the applicant has free reign to live and work in the country with the RIA facilitating a transition to normal life.
If negative the applicant may choose to be voluntarily repatriated with the assistance of the UN-backed International Organisation for Migration (IOM), or begin a process of appealing the initial ruling using the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT)
If negative and wishing to remain the applicant may apply for ‘Subsidiary Protection’ or ‘Permission to Remain’, both allowing the individual to remain in the country despite not qualifying as a refugee almost always within Direct Provision. There is no limit on appeals with applicants allowed to avail of a judicial review at the High Court to challenge any aspect of the IPAT decision, all at the State’s expense.
Who is Profiting from the Appeals Logjam?
There are 44 full time members of the Tribunal as of 2020 ranging from a chairperson to various clerical and executive officers. The current chairperson of the Tribunal is German-born Hilkka Becker, formerly of the Refugee Council of Ireland, and Chuck Feeney funded open borders advocacy group the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
Under the current legislation, the Department of Justice is liable to pay the costs of successful applicants with the table below illustrating the annual legal fees for the Tribunal going back to 2008.
In addition to their full-time staff of 47, the Tribunal also utilises circa 60 part-time legal staff members to help expedite the decision process. Very often these consist of full time barristers supplementing their income. Among the members listed is Una McGuirk, a barrister currently the subject of much media intrigue for her role in an anti-lockdown rally last year, and who subsequently had her contract lapse with the IPAT. Some of the fees payable to legal members for various services rendered are listed below.
The average payment made to an IPAT legal member was €10,552 in 2020, with €527,641 being claimed by members in total.
In 2019 the highest financial claimant from the Tribunal is the barrister Mark Byrne who earned €72,722 ruling on 129 asylum decisions.
It takes approximately 6 months for the IPAT to rule on the average appeal with Zimbabwean, Pakistani and Nigerian nationals making up the highest proportion of applications the previous 4 years.
In 2019 75% (489) of all appeals were refused while in 2020 this figure fell to 69% (639).
Among its reporting the IPAT lists some of the specificities of certain cases that reached the High Court relating to international protection. From constant mention of applicants fearing for their safety due to risk of being sacrificed in pagan rituals, to fleeing Albanian or Nigerian criminal cartels, they give a flavour of the calibre of applicants applying for asylum in Ireland.
For Ghanese applications a particular motif is individuals fleeing from partaking in or being the victims of ritualistic sacrifice, and claiming asylum in Ireland as a consequence. One applicant in 2019, who had his application refused for claiming he was being forced to partake in such rituals, made the accusation that tribunal members were biased in their decision making on account of preconceived Eurocentric notions.
For African applicants in general there was a repeated pattern of those identifying as LGBT claiming asylum on grounds of homophobic persecution in their homelands. With many of these cases refused owing to a dearth of evidence, some of these claims rested on the applicant claiming that they were merely perceived as homosexual whilst actually being heterosexual, thus in the same position of danger as a member of the LGBT community.
A 2019 High Court decision ruled in favour of a Nigerian heterosexual man fleeing from alleged homophobic prosecution on grounds he was mistaken as a homosexual In the words of the Court, while the applicant “occasionally had girlfriends call to see him” or the fact that his neighbours displayed no visible signs of homophobia, the Tribunal which turned down his appeal had based their refusal on false conjecture.
Rather typical in Irish public life is that what should be an elementary procedure ruling on what are for the most part bogus applications is frustrated by bureaucracy and a system that benefits multiple parties financially. It is high time the Gordian knot is cut on asylum appeals, with the numbers being capped and procedure fast-tracked. If we are to have an asylum system, let us assist the genuinely needy, not the current miasma that enriches legal interests, busies civil servants, and empowers foreign cons to take advantage of our collective charity.
By 2024 when the expected reforms to our asylum system are implemented, giving applicants a right to own-door accommodation within 4 months operated by non-profit organisations, we will almost surely see a surge of solicitations for asylum. The asylum carousel will not endure such an uptick and the potential for this mayhem to rupture onto the mainstream will increase.
Two decades of kicking the asylum issue into touch and creating an ecosystem benefitting certain barristers will come back to haunt us all. While the open borders Left goes in circles repeating truisms regarding Direct Provision, it is incumbent on genuine critics of the asylum system to strike at this state-sponsored ineptitude root and branch.