Number of asylum seekers being accommodated by State exceeds 30,000 for the first time

TD calls for random spot checks on Border as 160 people transferred from tents along Dublin’s Grand Canal in early morning operation

The number of asylum seekers being accommodated by the State has exceeded 30,000 for the first time as the Government considers a review of supports available to those who are not in direct provision.

The Department of Justice confirmed to The Irish Times that a total of 7,667 people had applied for international protection this year as of May 7th, an increase of more than 2,500 since the last official figures of 5,162 on March 31st.

A total of 30,027 people are being accommodated (up from 29,456 at the end of April) and a further 1,825 are awaiting an offer of State accommodation, according to the latest figures published on Thursday night by the Department of Integration.

The figure shows that in the intervening five weeks an average of 501 applicants have applied for asylum each week, compared to an average of 397 in the first 13 weeks of the year.


The department and agencies in this area have privately expressed concerns that the increase in numbers has not yet peaked. Last week, a total of 610 applications were made for asylum at the International Protection Office, with indications that number will be surpassed this week.

One of the options which may be explored is a review of the supports to asylum seekers. The allowance for those not in direct provision currently stands at €113.80 per week.

There are different views within Cabinet over whether this should be altered.

One source said there was a sense within the Cabinet that it might be more attractive than what was offered in comparable EU countries. In France, the rate for those without accommodation is €99 per week. In Germany, the basic rate is €85.

It came as Taoiseach Simon Harris said the day of asylum seekers living in tents on the streets of Dublin for periods of weeks or months had come to an end.

Mr Harris was speaking after an operation on Thursday morning to transfer 160 people from tents pitched beside the Grand Canal to other locations with food and sanitation facilities.

The asylum seekers were handed an information sheet during the 6am operation and were told they do not have permission to stay beside the canal, that tents may be seized and asylum seekers may be prosecuted if they refuse to move from tented encampments.

“You are committing an offence. If you refuse to come to the available accommodation or you later return to stay in this area you may be moved on by An Garda Síochána (Police) and you may be arrested and prosecuted,” the information docket said.

Some 400 of the 610 people who applied last week were women and children and all were accommodated in International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) centres. However, almost 200 men were told there was no accommodation, bringing the total number of male asylum seekers with no designated accommodation to 1,800.

The Lighthouse, which provides services for homeless people in Pearse Street, dealt with more than 400 people on Tuesday evening, many seeking sleeping bags, tents, food and torches. Frontline workers have noted that many of the new applicants in recent weeks are from the Middle East and Asia, notably Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Syria and Palestine.

On Thursday, a senior Government source partly attributed the surge in applicants to the fears stoked in the UK following the transfer of a single asylum seeker to Rwanda, which happened in advance of the local elections there.

A new agency will have responsibility for supplying emergency accommodation in military-style 12-person tents on State-owned land, where people will have access to water, sanitation and electricity. The stalled “super prison” project at the Thornton Hall site in North Dublin has been identified as a possible location. The site had previously been assessed for suitability for Ukrainian refugees by the Department of Integration in March last year.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has called for random spot checks on the Border, expedited decisions around adding extra safe countries of origin and increased deportations.

In strong criticism of his own Coalition’s policy, Mr Cowen said Fianna Fáil was “on the wrong side of the discussion” around immigration and said the two key departments, Justice and Integration, were “failing”.

He said there should be spot checks by gardaí on the Border to detect illegal immigrants, saying “if there is a fear of being caught, the numbers will decrease”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Jack White

Jack White

Jack White is a reporter for The Irish Times