Each month, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner publish a statistical report in respect of both the Asylum and Family Reunification Applications currently being assessed. On reviewing the report this month, we were struck by the statistics in respect of the Family Reunification application process. We learned that between January 2011 and the 31st July 2011, ORAC has received 148 applications, including 258 dependants. This is an average of 21 applications a month. This is not an exceptionally large number of applications. Of these applications, most of the applicants are refugees from Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. Each of these countries are, or have recently been, in serious conflict and each are to some degree suffering from large scale humanitarian crisises. From our experience working with clients from these countries, many of the applications would be submitted respect of the refugee’s spouse and minor children, and thus would fall into the Non Discretionary category. This means that the Minister is obliged to grant the application on the basis that the Minister is satisfied that the subjects of the applications fit within the spouse/minor child category. It has long been accepted by the High Court that non discretionary applications should require far less investigation and processing time as compared with discretionary applications.
Therefore, why then is the average processing time for Family Reunification applications approximately two years?
We regard all applications for Family Reunification to be urgent, and some extremely urgent. We believe that it is completely unacceptable that a family member of a refugee who has an entitlement to travel to and reside in Ireland should wait in a refugee camp, sometimes in a famine zone, for an average of two years before receiving the green light from the Department of Justice. The fact that many of the cases we work on involve applicants aged between 18 to 23 who came to the State as minor children and are now applying to be re united with their parents and siblings makes this delay nothing short of scandalous.
We appeal to the Department of Justice on behalf of our clients to expedite the current processing times for the Family Reunification process to a more reasonable period of no more than six months per application.