Fewer than 950 sought asylum in the State last year, new figures show
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter says work on new immigration law at ’advanced stage’
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: has rarely been out of the eye of the storm. Photograph: The Irish Times
Fewer than 950 people sought asylum in the State last year, extending a downward trend that has seen the volume of refugee applications fall sharply over the past decade.
Provisional figures published by the Department of Justice yesterday show 946 asylum applications were submitted last year, compared with 956 in 2012. In 2002 the number of applications peaked at 11,600.
There has also been a decline in the number of people in direct provision, the system of housing and allowances for asylum seekers. At the end of last year some 4,370 people were residing in the network of former hotels, hostels, caravan parks and leisure centres, most of which are privately run, where asylum seekers are housed – 470 fewer than at the same point in 2012.
A total of 2,250 people were deported or removed from the State last year, of whom 1,890 were refused entry at ports or airports and were returned to where they had come from.
Some 210 people were deported, with Nigeria, China, Mauritius, Albania and Pakistan the top five nationalities represented on the list of deportees. A further 84 asylum seekers were transferred to the EU member state in which they first applied for asylum, while 63 EU citizens were returned to their country of origin on foot of an EU removal order.
On citizenship, the figures show 30,000 applications were decided upon last year, compared with 25,000 in 2012 and 16,000 in 2011. Advocacy groups have long criticised the long waiting times of several years facing those seeking citizenship, and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter attributed the reduction of the backlog to reforms introduced by the Government since taking office. He said more than 70 per cent of standard applications were now being decided in less than six months.
“One of my main objectives in the asylum, immigration and citizenship areas has been to reduce backlogs and the length of time applicants are waiting for decisions on their applications,” he said.
“Huge improvements have been made in the citizenship area, visa applications are being processed in a matter of days in the great majority of cases and in the asylum area new applications are processed to completion within months.”
Mr Shatter said work on a new Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill was at an “advanced stage” and he expected it to be enacted this year.