Frequently asked questions for asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland
How do I claim refugee status in Ireland?
Although in some countries UNHCR recognises and registers refugees, in Ireland it is not UNHCR’s role to determine who is and who is not granted asylum. This is the responsibility of the Irish State and the Department of Justice, who receive and decide applications for asylum in the country under the terms of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol.
Accordingly, applications for refugee status should be submitted directly to the International Protection Office (IPO). This is only possible for a person who is already in Ireland.
For more information on how to claim asylum in Ireland, please refer to:
Can UNHCR give me legal advice?
Unfortunately, due to limited resources and the nature of our role in Ireland, UNHCR in Dublin can provide only limited support in relation to individual cases. Legal representation and advice to asylum seekers is provided through private solicitors or through specialised agencies such as the Irish Refugee Council and the Immigrant Council that may be able to provide their services free of charge.
Legal advice and representation may also be available free of charge through the Legal Aid Board or indirectly via their private practitioner scheme. For further details see:
Once instructed, your legal representatives may contact UNHCR if they consider it necessary, in order to request assistance on specific issues and they should provide any relevant supporting documentation on the case, when doing so.
Can UNHCR help me resettle?
Refugee resettlement involves the transfer of refugees from the country in which they have initially been granted asylum to another State that has agreed to admit them as refugees and to grant permanent settlement there. In order to enquire further about resettlement to Ireland or another resettlement State, the appropriate UNHCR office to approach is your nearest UNHCR office.
If an individual has, for example, relatives in Ireland then that individual should obtain copies of their Irish relatives’ identification documentation and bring them to the attention of the UNHCR office registered with. In line with their standard operating procedures, UNHCR offices that register individuals for refugee status determination will also consider whether or not that individual is eligible for resettlement to a third country, such as Ireland.
Whether a refugee may be resettled also depends on the admission criteria of the third State as well as the cooperation of the country of initial asylum. Resettlement is not a right, and there is no obligation on States to accept refugees for resettlement.
If you are resident in Ireland and wish to enquire about the resettlement of relatives here it is important to appreciate that Ireland accepts only a small number of resettled refugees each year. Whilst it would be appropriate in such cases to refer your relatives to their nearest UNHCR office to make further enquiries, the possibility of an application for family reunification should be explored as a more likely alternative.
For further general information on resettlement please see UNHCR’s resettlement webpage (http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a16b1676.html). UNHCR also has specific frequently asked questions about resettlement (http://www.unhcr.org/4ac0873d6.html). UNHCR identifies individuals for resettlement in accordance with the criteria defined in the Resettlement Handbook (http://www.unhcr.org/4a2ccf4c6.html).
Can UNHCR help me be reunited with my family?
The normal procedure for family reunification in Ireland allows recognised refugees in Ireland to reunite with their immediate family here. In other words, a refugee or someone granted subsidiary protection is entitled to be reunited in Ireland with his or her spouse / civil partner) and minor children (under the age of 18 years). Furthermore, in order to benefit from the family reunification provisions spouses / civil partners should be in a subsisting relationship and so should intend to live together. No fee is payable for such applications.
Applications for family reunification can also be submitted where a refugee wishes to be reunited with dependant members of his or her extended family (i.e. someone who is neither their spouse / civil partner nor their minor children).
For further information see the following Department of Justice FAQ:
If my child is born in Ireland, are they entitled to refugee status?
Children born in Ireland on or after 1 January 2005 are entitled to Irish citizenship if one of their parents are Irish or one of their parents are legally resident in the island of Ireland for 3 out of 4 years immediately prior to birth. Periods of legal residency as an asylum seeker or on a student visa do not qualify for these purposes. However, a child born in Ireland who would not otherwise be entitled to citizenship of any other country will be entitled to Irish citizenship.
For more information, please see:
Do I have to apply for asylum in the first country I enter in Europe?
The "European Dublin III Regulation" aims to quickly establish only one Member State as responsible for examining an application for asylum within the EU and some associated countries: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. They replaced the "Dublin II" Regulation that preceded it.
The Regulations help avoid the situation of asylum seekers being sent from one country to another without any taking responsibility for their application. Equally they prevent abuse of the system whereby one person can submit several applications for asylum in different countries.
The Regulations do not set out to penalise asylum-seekers when they cross borders. Rather, they set out a sliding scale of criteria that help the authorities establish which country is responsible for each individual asylum-seeker. Top of that list of criteria is family links. If the applicant is not already in the county deemed responsible, the Regulations set out procedures to follow to arrange their transfer to that country. They also allow for discretionary transfers, where States agree, in order to unite family members.
So, if a young asylum seeker arrives in Italy but then moves on to France because his parents live there, he may be permitted to apply for asylum in France.
In the case of an unaccompanied minor, where he has no family members in the EU or associated States, he may apply for asylum in the country in which he/she is at the time.
The rules in relation to legal and illegal entry to Member States are somewhat technical. For example, once an asylum-seeker crosses a border irregularly into a country covered by the Regulations, that country will normally be deemed if there are no family members in another country. If however after 7 months he/she moves to another country and lives there for a minimum of 5 months before applying for asylum, then the second country will be the one responsible for the application. Asylum seekers’ fingerprints are normally taken by immigration officials and results from the shared “Eurodac” database are frequently the basis of such decisions.
Finally, some countries are not deemed suitable for returnees.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that asylum seekers should not be sent back to Greece because of deficiencies in that country’s asylum system. In a separate case, the Court of Justice said that states have an obligation not to transfer asylum-seekers to other member states where they would face inhuman or degrading treatment.