€39m a year spent on failed asylum applicants, says FG


THE STATE is spending some €39 million a year to house unsuccessful asylum applicants because of delays in the Government’s decision-making process, Fine Gael has suggested.

The party’s immigration spokesman Denis Naughten said that as of the end of June, there were 4,018 asylum applications awaiting a decision, either at first instance or on appeal, although there were 6,961 people in asylum accommodation.

Based on a reply from Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to a parliamentary question, he calculated that housing the remaining 2,943 people cost the State almost €39 million.

“The vast majority of these failed applicants are part of a 14,000 backlog of leave-to-remain applicants,” Mr Naughten said.

“It is the Minister for Justice’s sole responsibility to make a decision on their cases,” he added.

“However, the Minister is only processing 2,000 applications annually, which means some asylum seekers will have to wait up to seven years for a decision to be made on their case, at the current rate.”

At a time when the need for efficiencies and savings was clear, Mr Naughten said the Minister had shown “no initiative, no reform proposals” to address the backlog of applications.

“Ireland’s asylum system is broken and this is costing asylum seekers and taxpayers,” he said.

Since 2002, the State had spent €300 million a year on the asylum system, despite a dramatic decline in the number of new asylum claims being lodged since that year, Mr Naughten added.

In reply to a separate parliamentary question earlier this month, Mr Ahern said there were indications that many of those who were awaiting a decision on their leave-to-remain applications may already have left the State without notifying the department.

Others had submitted separate applications for residency – for example, on the basis of their marriage to an Irish or EU national – and decisions on these must be made before their applications for leave to remain could be finalised.

Mr Ahern said the consideration of applications for leave to remain was a “resource-intensive” process. “The deputy can be assured that strenuous efforts have been and continue to be made to ensure that applications are processed as promptly as possible,” he added.

“Additional staff have been deployed to the area and considerable investment has been made in the development of technology required to support the processing of such applications.”