Thursday, 18 June 1987
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Deasy: asked the Minister for Justice the number of transit passengers, over the past ten years, who have indicated that they wish to be granted political asylum or to be allowed stay in Ireland on arrival at Shannon airport; and the number of such requests which have been granted.
Persons who request political asylum at Shannon Airport are interviewed initially by immigration officers. Their cases are  considered by my Department by reference to the United Nations 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. We do not insist on a formal request for asylum, as such, but regard any reasonably indicative form of wording or behaviour as an application.
The representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Department of Foreign Affairs are consulted where necessary, and any necessary inquiries are carried out. Each case is referred to me personally for final decision.
Statistics are not kept in such a way as would enable me to state the number of persons who asked for asylum at Shannon Airport for the years prior to 1986. I can say, however, that the total of 177 persons applied for refugee status in Ireland since 1981, and that 130 of them were granted refugee status. These figures include 90 Indo-China boat people who came here in small groups during that time and 26 Ba-hai's who were accepted as refugees by the Government in 1985.
|Number who requested asylum||10|
|Number granted refugee status||0|
|Number allowed stay in Ireland||5|
|Number allowed stay pending admission to a third country||1|
|Number who requested asylum||9|
|Number granted refugee status||1|
|Number allowed stay in Ireland pending final decisions||3|
|Number allowed stay pending admission to a third country||4|
Mr. Deasy: I find the statistics which have been given very disquieting and the lack of statistics prior to 1986 probably even more disquieting. There seems  some very haphazard manner for dealing with these applications. In some cases it has been alleged that because of language barriers people's cases have not been properly processed and that, for some other peculiar reasons which I do not quite understand — they could be quite mercenary — people who have come from countries where they have been oppressed have been sent back to those countries. For all we know, they could have been murdered or sent to slave camps for the rest of their lives. This is a most disquieting episode and I ask the Minister——
Mr. Deasy: —— if he is seriously examining the matter? The figures we have for 1986 and 1987 are pretty damning. I believe that most of these people were genuine. They were people from Afghanistan, Cuba or the Soviet Union who wanted to stay in this country, a democratic society, and they were probably not allowed to do so.
Mr. Collins: In reply to Deputy Deasy's supplementary question, there are two United Nations documents dealing with requests for political asylum, the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees and the 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has a supervisory role in relation to the Convention and the Protocol. We have an agreement with the representatives of the High Commissioner accredited to London and Dublin as to the procedure for dealing with requests for asylum. Apart from the procedures outlined in the agreement with the UNHCR, two other procedures are followed: consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and, where the applicant wishes to go to a third country, consultation with the relevant embassy. In interpreting the international instruments concerned, we have at our disposal a body of advice as already given by the UNHCR and a handbook on procedures published by them. The Convention and the Protocol define a refugee as a person who and I quote: “owing to well-founded fears of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. Many applicants are found not to qualify because there is no danger of their being persecuted on one of the grounds listed. Many of the applicants are economic migrants seeking entry to a more prosperous country. They seek refugee status as their best ploy since in many countries determination of the issue takes a long time. As stated in the answer given earlier to Deputy Deasy, refugee status was granted to a total of 130 out of 177 people who applied in the period 1981 to date. These figures include a total of 90 Indo-China boat people or Vietnamese and 26 Iranian Ba-hai's These groups were accepted by the Government and can be distinguished from individual or casual applications. The figures for Shannon for 1986  show that five applicants were allowed to stay here even though they did not qualify for refugee status under the 1951 Convention and the decision to allow them to stay was taken on humanitarian grounds, apart from those of the Convention.
Mr. Shatter: Out of those who have landed in Shannon and who have applied to stay, how many were applicants from the Soviet Union and how many of them have been granted permission to stay? Is it correct to say that not a single applicant from the Soviet Union has been granted such permission?
Mr. McDowell: I understand there is no incident book kept at Shannon so that what turn out to be rejected applications on the grounds that they do not come within the United Nations' code are not recorded and quantified. Can the Minister indicate how many people approached immigration or other personnel at Shannon with a view to remaining in this country but were rejected due to communications or lack of qualifying status? Are there any records kept of those matters?
Mr. Cullen: In the Minister's reply he said that in 1986 four people were returned and so far in 1987 one person has been returned. May I ask him from which countries did these people originate, to which countries were they returned and on what basis were they returned?
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: May I ask the Minister of the five people who were allowed to stay in 1986 and the three who were allowed to stay in 1987, what legal status do they enjoy in this country? Of the four who were allowed to stay awaiting responses from other countries, will the Minister say to what countries did those people — one in 1986 and three in 1987 — gain access or were they returned to the countries of their origin?
Mr. Collins: I might best answer the Deputy's questions by saying that in 1986 no applicant was granted refugee status, the number allowed to stay in Ireland was five and the number allowed to stay pending admission to a third country was one. In 1987 one applicant was successful in seeking refugee status. The number allowed to stay in Ireland pending a final decision was three and the number allowed to stay pending admission to a third country was four. The number returned in 1986 was four and the number returned in 1987 was one but I cannot say where those people came from or their nationality. I will come back to the Deputy on that.
Mr. Deasy: The Minister said that of the total figure of 167,130 had been  granted political asylum. If one takes out the two block groups, consisting of 90 boat people and the 26 from some other countries — a total of 116 — the indication is that of the 61 others only 14 were granted political asylum here. I find that figure alarming. Is the Minister happy with the procedures adopted for processing the applications of those people when they arrive here? I am not happy.
Mr. Shatter: In suggesting that there should be a review of the procedures I should like to ask the Minister to consider providing by way of legislation, or otherwise, for the establishment of a formal appeals group to whom a person who seeks asylum here can make an appeal to be allowed to remain in Ireland and which group would determine such applications within two weeks of the appeal being made? I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that such procedures exist in a number of other EC countries and have been found to work very well.
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