Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Getting refugee and asylum seeker status.
Who are refugees?
According to the Irish government a refugee is someone who has had to leave their own country because of fear of persecution (for reasons of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion) and has been granted legal refugee status by the government. This then gives them the same rights as Irish citizens to employment, social welfare, education, housing, health care and other public services.
Refugees are issued with travel documents that allow them to leave and then return to Ireland without a re-entry visa. However, they must not travel to the country they sought refuge from. Refugees also have the right to family reunification. This means that they are entitled to be re-united with immediate family members and dependent family members.
There are over 42 million refugees worldwide. Most of them are from Palestine, Iraq, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet and Africa.
There are two categories of refugees in Ireland:
- Programme refugees. These are refugees who have been invited to Ireland as a result of humanitarian requests from agencies such as the UNHCR. Ireland accepts about 40-50 people from these programmes per year.
- Convention refugees. These are refugees who meet the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Convention.
Programme and Convention refugees can apply to become Irish citizens after three years in the country.
Who are asylum seekers?
An asylum seeker is someone who has had to leave their own country because of fear of persecution and who has applied to be legally accepted as a refugee in Ireland.
In legal terms, an asylum seeker is a person who seeks to be recognised as a refugee under the terms of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees as defined in Section 2 of the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended. Asylum seekers have a legal right to stay in Ireland while their application for refugee status is being decided on.
Anybody can become a refugee or asylum seeker; it doesn't matter if you are rich, poor, adult, child or what colour, religion, ethnicity or nationality you are. Refugees and asylum seekers leave or escape their home county because of persecution or intimidation.
Find advice for Refugees and Asylum-Seekers from the Irish Refugee Council.
How to get asylum seeker status:
When you first arrive in Ireland you will be asked to fill in an application form at the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. This form declares that you are seeking refugee status. You must also include original birth certs, passports and marriage certificates if you have them, along with the birth certs and passports of any children you have with you. If you do not have the originals, you must have reasonable cause for having copies instead. After this, you will then be given an interview under Section 8 of the Refugee Act 1996 to try and ascertain if you wish to make an application to be a refugee, the reason why you are in Ireland and other legal issues. After your interview, you will be given information on your right to seek legal assistance and told to consult with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
If you have applied at the port of entry (i.e. the airport), you are required to attend the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to complete the initial asylum process. If you do not do so and do not provide an address to the Commissioner within five working days of making an application, your application will be withdrawn.
You and your dependent children will have your photograph taken, as well as your fingerprints. These photographs may be disclosed to other Irish authorities and to asylum authorities of other countries. If you do not have your fingerprints taken, this could affect your application badly and it could be withdrawn. You may also be detained by an immigration officer or by a member of the Gardaí if they have reasonable cause to suspect you are attempting to hide your true identity. You must also fill out a questionnaire and return it by a specific date. Again, if you fail to send the questionnaire in by the specified date, your application may be denied.
You will be given a Temporary Residence Certificate when your interview and assessment at the Office of the Refugee Application Commissioner are completed. After this, you will be taken to a reception centre in Dublin. You will stay here for a short period of time and will then be transferred to accommodation (which may be outside Dublin) while your application is processed.
People under the age of 18 who are not accompanied by parents or guardians will be referred to the Local Health Board.
The length of time a person has to wait for refugee status varies from case to case, depending on a variety of factors:
- The country of origin
- The grounds for refugee status under section 8 of the Refugee Act 1996
- The age of the applicants, particularly people under the age of 18
- The family relationships between applicants
- The date of application to become a refugee
- National security issues
- The likelihood that the applications are well founded
- Any special circumstances regrind the welfare of the applicants or their family members
- Whether applicants do not show on their face grounds for the contention that the applicant is a refugee
- Whether applicants have made false or misleading statements with regards to their application
- Whether applicants had made prior applications for refugee status in another country or countries
- Whether applications were made at the earliest opportunity after arrival in Ireland
- Whether applicants are nationals of, or have a right of residence in, a country of origin designated as safe under section 12(4) of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended
- If an applicant is a person to whom paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of section 2 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended applies
- Whether the applicant/s is in detention
- Appeals from applicants in respect of recommendations from the Commissioner, which come within the categories described in, section 13(6) findings and section 13(8) of the Act.