It has been reported in the media this morning that Edward Snowden has “applied for” asylum in Ireland, along with applications to 19 other countries (see here, here, here and here). However, as is clear from a reading of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), Mr Snowden has not made any such application for asylum in Ireland. Leaving aside the issue of whether Snowden qualifies as a person in need of refugee or subsidiary protection, to apply for asylum in Ireland, Section 8(1) of the 1996 Act states:
A person who arrives at the frontiers of the State seeking asylum in the State or seeking the protection of the State against persecution or requesting not to be returned or removed to a particular country…. [emphasis added]
As Snowden has not arrived at the frontiers of the State, he is unable to make an application for asylum/protection in Ireland. Unlike Ecuador, an individual cannot make an asylum claim at an Irish embassy (be it in Russia or elsewhere). If Snowden was to (somehow!) make it to Ireland and made an application for refugee or subsidiary protection at the frontiers of the State, the United States has not been designated a safe country of origin, so Mr Snowden’s asylum and/or subsidiary protection claim would have to be dealt with under the legal framework of the 1996 Act and 2006 Regulations. Given the low rate of acceptance of refugee and subsidiary protection claims in Ireland, as well as the direct provision system in place, Mr Snowden might want to think twice about making any such journey to Ireland.
Update 16:35pm 20/07/2013: The Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) confirms that applications for asylum cannot be made outside of Ireland. However, the Taoiseach also stated that if Snowden did apply for asylum in Ireland, it would be dealt with under Irish law.