The term refugee is used in everyday language in Ireland to describe a number of categories of people. These categories of people may have different legal statuses. As a result of these different legal statuses, they may have varying rights and obligations in Irish society. All these of these people are linked to the refugee process as defined in Irish law and based on international convention.
Proposed changes to immigration law: The General Scheme of the International Protection Bill was published on 25 March 2015. Its main aim is to introduce a single procedure for application for protection which would incorporate applications for refugee status, subsidiary protection and leave to remain.
At present the breakdown of those different categories is as follows:
An asylum seeker is a person who seeks to be recognised as a refugee under the terms of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees as defined in Section 2 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. Under Section 2 of the Act, 1996, the legal definition of a refugee is a person who, "owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his or her nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his or her former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it"
A convention refugee is a person who fulfills the requirements of the definition of a refugee under the terms of the Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees as defined in the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended and is granted refugee status.
A programme refugee is a person who has been invited to Ireland under a Government decision in response to a humanitarian request, usually from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), either for the purposes of temporary protection or resettlement.
Since 8 October 2014, someone who is applying to be recognised as a refugee may also make an application for subsidiary protection (pdf). Under the European Union (Subsidiary Protection) Regulations 2013, a person eligible for subsidiary protection is someone “ who does not qualify as a refugee, in respect of whom substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person concerned, if returned to his or her country of origin, would face a real risk of suffering serious harm and who is unable or, owing to such risk, unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country”.
A person who does not fully meet the requirements of the definition of refugee under the terms of the Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees as defined in the Refugee Act, 1996, may be granted leave to remain in the State for humanitarian or other compelling reasons. Leave to remain may be also be granted to non-EU nationals who have been refused a declaration as a refugee and are not eligible for subsidiary protection.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.