Almost 60% of international protection applications refused in 2023 up from 18% in 2022

Nearly 600 asylum seekers refused refugee status in January after denials soared last year

Nearly 600 asylum seekers were refused refugee status in the first month of this year, more than double the number refused during the same month last year, according to data from the Department of Justice.

Some 62 per cent (595 people) of first-time international protection (IP) applications assessed in January 2024 were refused permission to remain in this country, while 26 per cent (251 people) were granted refugee status.

Some 261 people were refused status in January of last year, while just 14 people were refused refugee status in January 2022.

A total of 953 applications were assessed in January, up from 502 applications assessed in January 2023 and 388 assessed in January 2022.


Nearly 60 per cent of all asylum applications (5,197) made last year were refused in the first instance, a threefold increase on 2022 when just 18 per cent of applications (875) were refused.

Overall, 28 per cent of applicants in 2023 were granted refugee status, 6 per cent were granted leave to remain and 2.5 per cent were granted subsidiary protection.

Subsidiary protection is granted when a person does not qualify for refugee status but there are substantial grounds for believing they would suffer serious harm if they returned to their country of origin. Permission to remain is granted at the discretion of the Minister for Justice on humanitarian grounds or for some other compelling reason.

The latest Government figures also show 878 newly arrived IP applicants do not have access to State accommodation and may be sleeping rough. The UN Agency for Refugees, also known as UNHCR, called this week on the Government to end homelessness among asylum seekers and end the culture of new arrivals sleeping in tents.

In a written submission to the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights, UNHCR called on the Government to take “concrete measures to scale up long-term, state-provided accommodation” for asylum seekers and to “eliminate reliance on emergency accommodation and tents”. It also called on the State to stop placing unaccompanied children in “unregulated emergency accommodation”.

The State has a “moral and legal obligation to meet the basic needs of people who come to Ireland seeking safety,” said UNHCR ahead of the committee on economic, social and cultural rights hearing on Thursday. “This is an emergency situation which requires the Government to take extraordinary measures to ensure it can meet these basic humanitarian needs.”

The committee will consider Ireland’s compliance with the international covenant, which enshrines rights to housing, education, health and work, in Geneva today.

In January, the Government announced Algeria and Botswana would be added to its list of ‘safe countries’ as part of a wider Government plans to speed up processing times for asylum applications.

The number of Algerian applicants for asylum spiked in 2022, rising from 138 applications the previous year to 1,766. However, applicant numbers dropped slightly in 2023 to 1,462. Some 65 Algerians applied for asylum in Ireland in the first month of this year.

The number of Botswanans seeking asylum also increased in recent years, rising from 69 applicants in 2021 to 370 in 2022, before dropping slightly to 343 last year. Just seven people from Botswana applied for asylum in Ireland in 2020. In January of this year, 52 Botswanans have applied for asylum.

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and South Africa are also designated ‘safe countries’ for asylum purposes.

The number of Georgian applicants for asylum has dropped considerably since the country was designated as safe in 2022, down from 2,710 in 2022 to 1,065 in 2023.

However, the number of South African asylum applicants increased during the same period, up from 450 in 2022 to 492 last year.

There are currently 19,300 applications for international protection pending assessment. The highest number of applications during the first month of the year came from Nigerians, followed by people from Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh and South Africa.

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Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast