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Legal and Administrative Framework for Decision Making

Section 9 (1) of the Refugee Act, 1996 provides that a person who arrives at the frontiers of the State seeking asylum or otherwise indicating an unwillingness to leave the State for fear of persecution, shall be given leave to enter the State. The 1996 Act provides that persons arriving at the frontiers of the State seeking asylum are initially dealt with by an Immigration Officer. The Immigration Officer conducts a preliminary interview with the applicant. The purpose of this interview, which is provided for under section 8(2) of the 1996 Act, is to establish inter alia whether the person wishes to make an application for a declaration for refugee status and, if so, the general grounds upon which the application is based, the identity of the person and their nationality, transport and route taken to reach Ireland as well as the legal basis for entry into or presence in the State. The 1996 Act also specifies that the interview shall be conducted in the presence of an interpreter where necessary and possible. Any person entering the State who declares that they intend to seek asylum in Ireland is required to report to ORAC for the further processing of their application. Persons who do not present themselves at the frontiers of the State may apply directly at the ORAC office in Dublin. In such cases the preliminary interview is conducted by a designated official of ORAC. In practice, most applications are in fact made directly at the ORAC office. 

Following the preliminary interview, a standard form (an ASY1 form) is completed and signed by the applicant. This contains some of the individual's biographical data and a brief outline of their asylum claim. The applicant is then given a detailed questionnaire, which requires him or her to provide more detailed biographical and other personal details (e.g. education and work history), travel particulars and, most importantly, the reasons for seeking asylum in Ireland. Prioritised applicants must return their questionnaires to ORAC within 6 working days, non-prioritised applicants within 7 working days. If the investigation of an applicant's claim is to be prioritised they will be informed of this at the preliminary interview. Applicants may seek legal advice from the Refugee Legal Service (RLS), the free legal aid service for asylum seekers, in the completion of the questionnaire and in preparation for their substantive interview. They are also free to engage the services of private legal practitioners at their own expense. All applicants are photographed and those over 14 years of age are fingerprinted and then issued with a Temporary Residence Certificate/Card. This is evidence that the person has applied for asylum but is 
not an identity document. All applicants are provided with an information leaflet which sets out in detail the procedures for processing applications. This leaflet is currently available in 25 languages.

The applicant is then referred to the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), which has an office in the ORAC building. RIA is responsible for the planning, co-ordination and provision of reception services to asylum seekers. RIA has a number of reception centres in Dublin, where asylum seekers are accommodated initially. Applicants may subsequently be dispersed to other accommodation centres throughout the State. This accommodation is provided on a full board basis.

In order to investigate their application, the applicant is invited to an interview in accordance with Section 11 of the Refugee Act, 1996. This substantive interview is carried out by an ORAC caseworker, with the assistance of an interpreter where required. An applicant is also entitled to have a legal representative present during the interview. In order to assist in evaluating the applicant's claim the ORAC caseworker researches country of origin information. They may do this with the help and resources of the ORAC's Research (COI) and Legal Analysis Unit, who may in turn source information from the Refugee Documentation Centre.

On the basis of the findings of the preliminary interview, the completed questionnaire, the substantive interview and any relevant documentation, including country of origin information, the caseworker prepares a report on the application which will incorporate a recommendation on whether or not refugee status should be granted as well as the reasons for this recommendation. Where it is recommended that the applicant be granted refugee status, ORAC notifies the Minister for Justice and Equality, who is bound by the recommendation except where questions of national security or public policy arise. Where a recommendation is negative, ORAC notifies the applicant accordingly.

Applicants who receive a negative recommendation following interview are entitled to appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The normal procedure is that an appeal must be made within 15 working days of the sending of the negative decision and the applicant is entitled to request an oral hearing for their appeal. In certain circumstances, which are set out in the Refugee Act, 1996, the period within which an appeal must be made is shorter and the appeal will be dealt with by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal without an oral hearing.

In cases where applicants withdraw or fail to participate in the process (e.g. through non-attendance at interview) a negative recommendation is issued, against which there is no appeal.

More comprehensive details concerning the applications process is set out in ORAC's information leaflet for applicants, a copy of which is available under the
Publications section of this website.

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