The Asylum Process in Ireland
The Application Process
In Ireland, an application for refugee status consists of the following stages, not all of which will apply in every case (some terms referred to in this section are explained further at the end of the page):
- An individual may make an application for a declaration as a refugee at the port of entry (airport/sea port). Here, the applicant will undergo certain formalities including an initial interview. An application may also be made directly to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) after a person has entered the State.
- An individual may make a separate application on behalf of any minor children or dependents and must complete a separate application form for a declaration for each minor child or dependent. If not, the accompanying minor children or dependents will be included in the applicant’s decision and all decisions taken in relation to the applicant’s case will apply to them.
- The initial interview, in accordance with section 8 of the Refugee Act, takes place in order to establish whether an individual wishes to make an application for refugee status, and if so, to find out the general grounds upon which the application is based.
- Once an application for a declaration as a refugee is made in Ireland, asylum seekers may be housed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) until the application is completed. The system of accomodation centres is known as direct provision.
- It is important that the applicant obtains legal advice. An asylum seeker may wish to contact the Refugee Legal Service, which provides a low-cost service for asylum seekers (see below for more details).
- At first instance, ORAC will investigate the application and make a recommendation under Section 13 of the Refugee Act in relation to the application for refugee status. This stage involves an interview.
- If the recommendation is positive then the Minister must, as a matter of law, grant refugee status to the applicant.
- If the recommendation is negative and the applicant is entitled to appeal, he/she may make an application to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) and the appeal will be conducted through written correspondence or by way of full oral hearing. If the recommendation by the RAT is positive then the Minister must grant refugee status.
- If, at this stage, refugee status has been refused, the applicant may apply to the Minister for Subsidiary Protection or Leave to Remain.
Authorities and Agencies involved in the Asylum Process
Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC)
The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner is an independent office that investigates applications for refugee status at first instance. Once a person claims asylum, an application is lodged with ORAC, who will then investigate the claim. Following this investigation, ORAC will recommend that the Minister for Justice and Equality either grants or refuses refugee status.
For more information on ORAC please visit www.orac.ie
Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT)
The function of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal is to hear appeals against negative recommendations from ORAC.
For more information on the RAT please visit www.refappeal.ie
Minister for Justice and Equality
The Minister will make the final decision to either grant or refuse a declaration as a refugee in accordance with section 17 of the Refugee Act. The decision of the Minister will be based on the recommendation of ORAC or, in the case of an appeal, the RAT.
In the case of a person who has been issued with a Notice of Refusal for a declaration as a refugee, the Minister may make an Deportation Order in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 requiring that person to leave the State and return to his/her country of origin.
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS)
The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service is an office within the Department of Justice and Equality responsible for the administrative functions of the Department in terms of asylum, as well as immigration, visas and citizenship.
For more information on INIS please visit www.inis.gov.ie
Reception and Integration Agency (RIA)
The Reception and Integration Agency is responsible for the accomodation of asylum seekers while their applications are being processed. RIA also coordinates additional services such as health care, education and welfare for asylum seekers.
For more information on RIA please visit www.ria.gov.ie
Refugee Legal Service (RLS)
The Refugee Legal Service is the office established by the Legal Aid Board to provide a low-cost, independent and confidential legal service to asylum seekers at all stages of the asylum process. The RLS can provide advice to applicants before submission of the ORAC questionnaire or prior to attendance at interview and can also make written submissions to ORAC in support of an application. In addition, the RLS can provide representation before the RAT and in some cases it can assist with judicial review proceedings and with immigration and deportation matters.
For more information on the RLS please visit
Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB)
The Garda National Immigration Bureau is responsible for all Garda operations that involve immigration matters in the State, including the enforcement of deportation orders issued by the Minister for Justice and Equality.
GNIB is also responsible for the registration of all non-nationals (people who are not citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area or Switzerland). All non-nationals must register with GNIB and receive a card, which a person must keep with him/her at all times.
For more information on GNIB and GNIB cards please visit
UNHCR’s Role in the Asylum Process
Unlike in some other countries around the world, UNHCR in Ireland does not have the power to determine who should be granted refugee status. In Ireland, refugee status determination is conducted by the Irish authorities and it is ultimately for the Minister for Justice and Equality to declare a person to be a refugee.
UNHCR plays a supervisory role in the asylum process in Ireland and possesses a number of statutory powers and functions in this regard, including the following:
- At the initial interview, a person seeking refugee status is informed that he/she is entitled to contact UNHCR. A record of the interview is furnished to UNHCR on request.
- UNHCR is notified of applications for refugee status that have been made to ORAC.
- When ORAC is investigating an application for refugee status, UNHCR may make representations in relation to any relevant matter. UNHCR may attend ORAC interviews on request.
- On request, ORAC furnishes to UNHCR the report setting out reasons for why refugee status has been recommended or not recommended in respect of an individual, as well as any relevant documents relating to that decision.
- UNHCR is notified of appeals made to the RAT and may attend proceedings and make observations.
- Decisions of the RAT (positive and negative) are communicated to UNHCR.
- The Minister for Justice and Equality notifies UNHCR of decisions to grant or refuse a declaration of refugee status.
- Where the Minister proposes to revoke a person’s refugee status, UNHCR is provided with a copy of the proposal and the reasons for it.
Applicants who do not qualify for refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention, but who cannot return to their country of origin due to a real risk of suffering serious harm (torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, death penalty or execution, or serious individual threat to the life or person as a result of indiscriminate violence) may be granted subsidiary protection by the Minister for Justice and Equality.
Asylum-seekers may apply for subsidiary protection:
• on first making an application for asylum at the Refugee Applications Commissioner
• if their claim for refugee status has been refused
• Any person who currently has an application for refugee status pending – either at ORAC or at the Refugee Appeals Tribunal - may also make an application for subsidiary protection
This is likely to be a temporary arrangement as amendments to the current regulations are expected soon.
Leave to Remain
Leave to remain is a status which may be granted at the discretion of the Minister for Justice and Equality to persons who are not deemed eligible for refugee status or subsidiary protection but who are permitted to remain lawfully in Ireland on humanitarian grounds or for some other compelling reason.
If a person is deemed not to have any legal entitlement to stay in Ireland, the Minister for Justice and Equality may make a Deportation Order in respect of such a person. A person will no longer have a legal entitlement to stay in Ireland if he/she has been denied refugee status and/or failed in his/her application for Subsidiary Protection and Leave to Remain.
Once a Deportation Order has been signed and the person in question notified (or served notice), it falls to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) to enforce the Order. In the time between receiving the Order and it being carried out, the person will be asked to present themselves at their local Garda Station at regular intervals.
In some instances, it is not permissible to return failed asylum seekers to certain countries. If this occurs, a Deportation Order will but not carried out.
Unaccompanied Minors/ Separated Children
Children under the age of 18 who arrive in Ireland or who present themselves at ORAC and who are not in the custody of an adult will be placed in the care of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE is responsible for the general care and well being of the minor and will provide assistance to that minor. The HSE may then decide that an application for a declaration as a refugee should be made on behalf of the minor. Specific arrangements will be made by the HSE in conjunction with ORAC for the processing of such an application.
The Dublin II Regulation
The Dublin II Regulation is a piece of legislation of the European Union. Its aim is to establish which country in the EU is responsible for processing a claim of asylum where the asylum seeker has travelled through more than one EU Member State. The country that is generally responsible for processing the claim is the first EU country in which the asylum seeker arrives.
A system called Eurodac takes fingerprint records of asylum seekers as they arrive in the EU. If an asylum seeker’s fingerprint appears to have been recorded somewhere in the EU on an earlier occasion, then the asylum seeker is liable to be returned to that country.
As an example, if an asylum seeker enters the EU through France and has his/her fingerprint taken and then travels to Ireland, he/she will be liable to be returned to France to have their asylum claim processed there.