Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
247. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which it will be possible to obtain information in respect of the residency status of a person (details supplied), with particular reference to the length of time that the person has been in the immigration system; if it is in the interest of transparency and due process not to give information on the person's position within the system in view of the difficulty of some, such as refugees or asylum seekers, to source legal advice, and where they have difficulty with the language, if this person's case might be responded to in order that factual information will emerge at a time of noticeable increase in human trafficking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30887/20]
In order to maintain full confidentiality, it is not my Department's practice to comment on whether an application for asylum or subsidiary protection has been made in the State. An applicant for international protection status, or their legal representative, should contact either the International Protection Office (IPO) or the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) directly, as appropriate.
However, I can inform the Deputy that an applicant for international protection is awarded international protection, whether refugee status or subsidiary protection status, upon a declaration of status being issued from my Department. This is done on foot of a grant recommendation from the IPO or a decision of the IPAT to set aside a refusal recommendation of the IPO.
My Department processes the recommendations received from the IPO and the decisions of the IPAT in chronological order based on the date the file is received in that Unit. Once the necessary due diligence has been carried out by the Ministerial Decisions Unit (MDU), a declaration of status will issue as soon as possible.
My Department is unable to publish any information that would identify an international protection applicant. Both I and my Department officials are obliged pursuant to section 26 of the International Protection Act 2015 to ensure that the identity of any person who applies for international protection is kept confidential. Section 26(1) sets out that “the Minister and the Tribunal and their respective officers shall take all practicable steps to ensure that the identity of applicants is kept confidential”.
It is an offence under law (punishable by up to 12 months in prison) that I or any official in my Department would give any indication as to a person's status as an international protection applicant and thus breach their right to confidentiality. The right to privacy and its confidentiality requirements are especially important for an asylum-seeker, whose claim inherently supposes a fear of persecution by the authorities of the country of origin and whose situation can be jeopardized if protection of information is not ensured.
The staff of the Chief International Protection Officer and International Protection Officers are independent by law in the exercise of their international protection functions. They are also bound by confidentiality provisions in respect of applicants as set out in the 2015 Act. They will only communicate with the applicant or their legal representative in the processing of their application. To do otherwise would be to compromise the applicant’s right to confidentiality.