A two-tier refugee system has emerged in Ireland. It is crucial to ask what the justifications and uses of a two-tiered system are (if any) before it becomes entrenched. The capacity of our society and government to respond with compassion, speed and vigour to the needs of Ukrainian refugees has been demonstrated since the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. This provides us with an opportunity to apply those lessons to the reform of our international protection system and ensure an inequitable two-tier system does not become the norm or even worse, accepted.
In the policy brief Responding with Care – Ireland’s Response to the Ukraine Crisis published by the Roundtable on Migrations in Our Common Home (2022), the authors ask why such a Temporary Protection Directive has not been established previously, notably during the refugee crisis that Europe faced in 2015. It is not the purpose of this statement to advocate for the expansion of the Temporary Protection Directive. However, it is salient for us as a society to reflect on the disparities in urgency, protection and rights afforded to asylum seekers of different nationalities fleeing near-identical situations. If we are to continue with a two-tiered system, we must strive to reduce the inequities between the tiers to honour the central principle of non-discrimination laid out in the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and Protocol (1967).