Lenihan Blames Barristers For Delays In Asylum Appeals

Lenihan blames barristers for delays in asylum appeals

Ruadhan MacCormaic
Migration Correspondent
The Irish Times
January 4, 2008

Minister of State for Integration Conor Lenihan has blamed cases taken by a “voracious group of barristers” for the “grief and difficulty” surrounding the asylum process.

Comparing the “industry” around asylum appeals to the long-running controversy over Army deafness claims, he said: “Something is going to have to be done about this – in the same way that we had to act and do something to protect taxpayers' money and time with regard to Army deafness.”

Arguing that a strong asylum regime is essential to maintain public confidence in migration policy, Mr Lenihan said the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill would tighten the system and shorten the initial waiting times for decisions. Applications for asylum have been falling steadily for years, from more than 11,500 in 2002 to fewer than 4,500 last year.

“If you don't control the flow of people and if our own population sense that the system is open to abuse . . . it really does wreck the whole perception of migration for everyone else. That's not a good thing,” he said in an interview with The Irish Times .

Immigrant advocacy groups are critical of the State's “direct provision” system, where asylum seekers are given accommodation, meals and a weekly allowance of ?19.10 but are precluded from seeking paid work. Mr Lenihan insisted the “grief and difficulty” around the system was due to delays caused by the volume of appeals.

“The major delays in settling and dealing with asylum applications at the moment is principally focused on the legal challenges that are being taken by a very active and voracious group of barristers down in the Bar library who are representing clients virtually on a 'no foal, no fee' basis,” he said.

Vulnerable asylum seekers were being given unrealistic hopes by some lawyers when in most cases their chances of a successful appeal were limited, he continued.

“We'll have to persuade the Bar library and the legal profession to perhaps ease off and stop throwing cases into the High Court automatically. We had similar experiences with the legal profession with regard to Army deafness, and people had to talk to them and say: 'Look, this isn't on.”

Mr Lenihan credited the policy of dispersing asylum seekers around the country, which he said was initially opposed by most rural Fianna Fail TDs, with averting hostility towards immigrants in Dublin and other cities. “I think I'd have a much more difficult job as Minister for Integration if we didn't do dispersal of the asylum accommodation.”