Irish Supreme Court grants leave for judicial review of outsourcing of asylum applications

A family has been granted leave for judicial review of the practice of outsourcing the assessment of asylum applications by the Refugee Applications Commissioner (RAC).

The applicants, a mother and her two daughters, claim that assessment of their application for asylum was in breach of the Refugee Act 1996 as it was outsourced to a contractor engaged from a panel of solicitors, barristers and other law graduates. In 2013, the RAC set up the panel to assess subsidiary protection applications. This was later extended to include asylum applications.

The family sought to bring proceedings for judicial review on the basis that the RAC had no power to delegate its functions under the Act. This was refused in the High Court for being without merit. However, the Supreme Court has overturned this decision on the grounds that the RAC had not complied with Section 11 of the Refugee Act 1996 which requires the Commission itself to consider asylum applications.

The Court found that the RAC had an obligation under Section 11 to examine asylum applications and provide recommendations to the Minister for Justice on which applicants should be granted asylum. Section 13 of the Refugee Act 1996 states that the RAC can only delegate the assessment of refugee applications to its staff, unlike subsidiary protections applications which can be delegated to outside contractors.

The Court also found that the law had not been correctly applied by the High Court as it must not lightly depart from previous decisions of the High Court unless there were significant reasons for doing so. As another High Court judge had granted leave on the same point, it would lead to injustice for the family should the other cases succeed.

The case will now return to the High Court for a hearing.

Click here for further analysis by the Irish Times.

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