Private asylum centres cost €58m

 

THE STATE spent €69.5 million housing and caring for asylum seekers last year, with the majority of funding used to pay for commercially owned housing.

Separate figures show 1,500 deportation orders have been signed since the formation of the Government but just over 300 people have been deported.

Some €57.8 million of the total cost last year was spent funding 37 commercially owned asylum centres across the country.

A total of €8.3 million was spent on seven State-owned asylum centres with a further €1.7 million used to fund two self-catering commercially owned facilities, figures from the Department of Justice show.

The majority of people seeking refugee status in Ireland come from Nigeria, followed by Pakistan, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Dara Calleary urged reform of the asylum system and said questions needed to be asked about the cost of commercially run centres. “Given the falling numbers of people seeking asylum here, there needs to be a constant evaluation of the facilities and the costs of these facilities on an ongoing basis,” he said.

“The discrepancy between the number of people given deportation orders and the amount deported is worrying. If that continues people will not take a deportation order seriously,” he added.

Asylum applications in Ireland reached a height of 10,038 in 2000; however, that figure dropped to 1,290 last year. Only 239 such applications were made in the first quarter of 2012.

The Irish Refugee Council said that the delay between when a deportation order is signed and when it is acted upon was costing the State but that deportations should be a last resort.

“I don’t know what the thinking is with the delays after deportation orders, it costs the State money and these people aren’t let work, even though many of them would be able to contribute to society,” said Sue Conlan, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council.

The Department of Justice rejected suggestions that there was a problem with the enforcement of deportation orders and said that new legislation would be coming in at the end of the year.

“The ratio of enforcement of deportation orders is fully in line with that throughout the EU and with the UK,” a department spokeswoman said. “Direct provision, while expensive, was found to be half the cost of any other system – such as one based on rent allowances etc in a 2010 value-for-money study,” she said. “The Minister has committed to amending the law in this area in a major piece of legislation later this year.”

Some 5,169 asylum seekers are cared for by the State, down from 6,107 in 2010.