During his visit this week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees met with representatives from several NGOs who work closely with asylum seekers and refugees living in Ireland.
The meeting was attended by Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre; Sue Conlan , CEO of the Irish Refugee Council; Leonie Kerins from Doras Luimni; Greg Straton, Director of SPIRASI; Ali Dennehy from the Integration Centre and Ifrah Ahmed, founder of United Youth of Ireland. These organisations were invited by the UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – to meet with High Commissioner Antonio Guterres to discuss issues relating to the status of asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland.
The group highlighted delays in the immigration process and how it impacts asylum seekers, especially their mental health and well-being. They also spoke about concerns about Ireland’s low rates of recognition and access to the territory – particularly that over 2,500 people who may have been eligible to apply for asylum were turned away from Irish airports last year. They further discussed the quality of decision-making and the culture of disbelief within the system. The High Commissioner was very supportive of the issues raised.
According to Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, “We were very happy with the meeting. The High Commissioner was well-informed about the issues and had met previously with asylum seekers and refugees living in Ireland. We hope he was given the opportunity to discuss the serious disfunctionalities in the Irish system with the Minister for Justice and Equality when he met with him on Thursday.”
Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, continued, “We welcomed the opportunity to meet with the High Commissioner and discuss the systematic failures in the asylum system. We covered quite a range of issues in the hour-long meeting. We hope that he had the opportunity to express the level of concern about the current system with the Minister.”
Ifrah Ahmed, Somali-born activist and founder of United Youth of Ireland, added, “We would welcome the UNHCR’s ongoing support in pushing the Irish government to adopt better practices in its treatment of asylum seekers. Ireland can strengthen its asylum procedures by using the UNHCR’s existing guidelines to protect specifically children and women at risk of gender-based persecutions.”
The High Commissioner was in Ireland to raise awareness around the global refugee crisis, particularly as a result of the current violence in Syria, and to recognise and get a future commitment from Ireland for continued support for the work of the UNHCR.
Greg Straton, Director of SPIRASI, commented, “Ireland has a very strong tradition of providing humanitarian aid to refugees throughout the world. We hope as a result of these meetings with the High Commissioner that the Irish State will be encouraged to treat the asylum seekers living here with the same compassion and humanity.”
- UN Refugee Chief Urges Simpler Asylum Process (Irish Times 12/10/12)