Friday 24 February 2017

Loophole halts asylum seeker deportation

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE Government has been told that it can not return asylum seekers to Greece who entered Ireland illegally via that country if it jeopardises their human rights.

Yesterday the Irish and British Governments were warned by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that non-European Union asylum seekers who entered Greece -- but subsequently travelled to Ireland and Britain to claim asylum -- could not be returned back to Greece if conditions in the bailed-out country jeopardise their rights.

The deportation of more than 30 asylum seekers who entered Ireland illegally after first arriving to the EU by entering Greece could now be halted following the major ruling by the ECJ.

Under EU laws known as the Dublin II Regulation, only one country -- usually the country where the asylum seeker arrived -- is meant to deal with an asylum application.

This rule is to prevent "asylum shopping", where asylum seekers apply in several countries in a bid to secure residency in the EU.

Greece has become the major entry point into the EU for illegal migrants and has a huge backlog of cases.

Its overcrowded detention centres have been widely condemned.

But the ECJ said asylum seekers should not be returned to another European country where they risk being subjected to inhuman treatment.

The ruling will immediately affect 32 asylum seekers in Ireland whose transfers to Greece were suspended after High Court judge Ms Justice Maureen Harding Clarke referred several cases to the ECJ last year. Five asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran and Algeria challenged an Irish decision to transfer them to Greece.

An Afghan also challenged a UK decision in July to send him back to Greece.

The ruling, which linked the Irish and UK cases, was welcomed last night by the Irish office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

"This (ruling) means that individual asylum-seekers should not be sent back to countries were they face a real risk," said Sophie Magennis, head of the Irish UN refugee agency.

Irish Independent

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