The number of people coming to Ireland and claiming asylum has dropped in recent months, according to statistics from the State’s International Protection Office.
After a big surge in applications last year, leading to unprecedented pressure on services and some asylum seekers being left with no accommodation, recent months have seen the numbers fall back.
In January of this year, more than 1,300 people arrived seeking international protection (asylum), a level on a par with most of last year. However, in February and March, the numbers fell back to 831 and 858, a drop of about a third.
Some Government sources believe the decline in numbers is related to a number of factors, including an increased Garda presence to check passengers disembarking from some planes at the airport, deploying gardaí to some foreign airports, the continuing pressure on services for asylum seekers here and the tone of some Government communications on the issue.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was criticised in some quarters after he said earlier this year that Ireland’s policy needed to be “firm, fair and hard”, though Mr Varadkar and other Ministers stressed that Ireland welcomed and would provide for people who were genuinely in need of international protection.
Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Simon Harris last week secured the agreement of Ministers to allow for notices and documents including deportation orders to be served electronically, and to make deportation easier in some limited circumstances.
In some cases, when a person has been in prison, where their deportation has been recommended by a court, or where a person is regarded as a danger to security of the State, authorities will be able to deport them immediately, without offering them the opportunity to leave voluntarily.
“We are proudly a welcoming country and a country enriched by immigration,” Mr Harris said in a statement issued in response to queries.
“It is crucial though that we always have an efficient, fair rules-based system for migration. The two amendments which I will bring forward to our Court and Civil Miscellaneous Provisions Bill will help ensure this is the case.”
Ireland’s asylum system, or international protection system, was put under extreme pressure last year when there was a surge in the number of people arriving here to seek protection.
There were 13,651 applications in 2022, the highest annual number on record. This represented a 186 per cent increase on 2019, the last comparable pre-Covid year. The sharp rise in numbers was in addition to more than 70,000 refugees who have come in from Ukraine since the Russian invasion last February.
With an already acute shortage of housing meaning that thousands of people who had been granted international protection in Ireland were still living in the direct provision accommodation intended for those awaiting a decision on their status, many new arrivals experienced extreme difficulty in finding a place to stay. Where the State had previously promised to find a place to stay for all Ukrainians, Mr Varadkar was forced to admit earlier this year that the authorities might not be able to make good on that pledge.
However, the trend of recent months may suggest that the numbers coming to Ireland in search of international protection has peaked.
A breakdown of the figures from the first three months of the year shows that Algerians and Nigerians are the largest groups seeking international protection here.