Planned asylum seeker system overhaul is a ‘gamechanger’ for Ireland, McEntee says

New European Parliament approved immigration policy would allow for faster processing of applicants and is a ‘gamechanger’, Minister says

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said the planned overhaul of the asylum system is a “gamechanger” for Ireland, allowing for faster processing of applicants and making it easier to “remove” those who don’t have a right to be here.

Ireland is to overhaul the system to deal with immigration after the European Parliament approved a new policy to harden the bloc’s borders after years of deadlock.

Ms McEntee said that the policy was “an absolute gamechanger” under which the International Protection Act 2015 will be repealed, and new, legally binding time frames for making decisions on international protection applications and appeals will be introduced.

There will be a greater focus on efficient returns for unsuccessful applicants and accelerated processing for those from safe countries or those with no documents or false papers.


Speaking on both Newstalk Breakfast and RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said there was nothing in the new EU migration package that did not benefit Ireland.

“I genuinely believe this is a game changer. And I say that because firstly, it will mean that in law we will have to process applications much more quickly. We know the quicker that we process people’s applications, people who genuinely need our help, they can move on with their lives. We can support them to integrate,” she said.

“People who shouldn’t be here, who don’t have a right to be here, it is much easier to remove them.”

The European Parliament vote, which was opposed by Sinn Féin, allows for more people to be detained in facilities at borders and allows countries to make financial contributions in lieu of taking in asylum seekers.

The Minister pointed out that as an island it was known that more than half of the people who come to Ireland seeking asylum come from another European country.

“If we do not opt into this pact, the idea that we could tell other countries to take back those who have already protection in their countries, again, it’s absolutely ludicrous. We wouldn’t benefit from the financial assistance which we will benefit from when we join the pact, but also we’re going to have a greater ability to understand who is coming into our country. So there will be enhanced checks and there will be enhanced systems so that when people do arrive, we will understand who they are, where they come from, that will help us understand exactly who’s here.

“But also if there are any risks, we would be able to deal with that as well. We have actually helped to make this pact, to get it to where it is here and generally there’s nothing that doesn’t benefit Ireland. So why we would go to try and deal with this on our own. It’s absolutely crazy.”

The new system will ensure that people who genuinely need help will get it and if there is the same system throughout Europe it will be more effective, she added. The overall objective was ensuring that the system was fair, but there also needed to be rules that had to be enforced.

With regard to Sinn Féin’s opposition to the pact, Ms McEntee said that Sinn Féin had opposed “every single good thing that has come out of Europe.”

“They have never supported a single measure in Europe that has been beneficial for this country. And we as a country have benefited greatly from so much free movement, from people’s ability to live, to work, to study. Our economy has flourished because of Europe. They have voted against every single measure that has allowed for those benefits. And this is no different here.”

Sinn Féin has disputed the assertion by Ms McEntee that it opposed all seven of the measures in the new asylum deal.

However, Sinn Féin’s spokesman on foreign affairs, Matt Carthy, said that it supported two of the measures, but opposed the other five.

He said the vast majority of the measures in the pact were not in Ireland’s interests.

“Ireland has the option to remain outside all or some of the seven measures.  We should utilise that option recognising that each member state is different and faces different pressures at any given time.

“Contrary to assertions from Ms McEntee, Sinn Féin supports two measures that we believe are in the best interests of Ireland.”

He said Sinn Féin supported the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation because it facilitated the return of people who seek to make an asylum application in Ireland to the first country where an international protection applicant has made a claim.

“We also support opting into the Eurodac Regulation because participation in this fingerprint database is necessary to conduct checks and vetting,” he said.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said that Ireland ceding the power to control immigration to Brussels was a “serious mistake”.

Mr Tóibín welcomed the fact that immigration was now on the agenda but warned about Ireland ceding sovereignty.

“The Asylum and Migration Management Regulation (RAMM) will see the EU determine the numbers of immigrants that Ireland must accept or the amount of money we must pay in lieu of not accepting people into the country,” he said.

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times