Asylum applications fall markedly
Asylum applications in the State are now at levels not seen since the mid-1990s, according to figures released today.
Provisional figures released by the Department of Justice show that deportations of failed asylum applicants rose by 83 per cent in 2009 while applications for asylum in the Republic fell by more than 30 per cent last year.
A statement released by the Department this morning said the reduction in the number of asylum applications was due to the introduction of strategies aimed at combating abuses of the process and the streamlining of processing arrangements.
According to the figures, asylum application numbers are now at levels not observed since the mid-nineties and represent a significant fall on last year's figures.
Some 2,689 asylum applications were received in the State in 2009 representing a 30.5 per cent decrease on the corresponding figure of 3,866 in 2008.
Deportation orders to non-EU countries were carried out in respect of 236 failed asylum seekers, representing an increase of 107 - or 83 per cent - on the previous year and transfer orders to other European States were carried out in 243 cases, representing what the Department of Justice described as a 61 per cent success rate.
An additional 202 failed asylum seekers returned home voluntarily.
In total, 681 persons were either assisted to return home voluntarily or were removed from the State in 2009, representing an increase of 24.7 per cent on the corresponding figure for 2008.
The number of applications for asylum has fallen continuously from a high of 11,634 in 2002 and the fall in applications in 2009 represents the third largest fall in percentage terms since 2002.
Of those who applied for asylum in 2009, Nigeria and Pakistan retained their position as the largest and second largest source nationality. China's position on the list of top five source nationalities for applications has risen to third from fifth place in 2008.
The top five source nationalities for applications were Nigeria with 569 (21.1 per cent), Pakistan (9.6 per cent), China (7.2 per cent), DR Congo (3.8 per cent) and Zimbabwe (3.4 per cent).
Mr Ahern said he welcomed the continuing decrease, "particularly in light of the considerable challenge associated with the processing of these applications and related costs to the State.
"When compared to other EU member states Ireland experienced one of the largest percentage reductions in asylum applications in 2009. Indeed about 50 per cent of EU member states experienced an increase in asylum application numbers last year," he said.
Fine Gael immigration and integration spokesman Denis Naughten criticised the cost of the process, claiming Mr Ahern has failed to make a serious impact in terms of asylum costs even when the number of new asylum applications has fallen significantly.
Mr Naughten said the cost of asylum seekers’ accommodation was €17.6 million more than projected and Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service cost an additional €15 million. He said the additional costs associated with asylum accommodation in 2009 ran at €50,000 a day more than originally projected.
He said his party had made a number of proposals including streamlining measures and the proposal that 15 High Court judges would work for an additional month in order to clear a backlog of cases.
“We need a determined approach to deal with the present mess and I’m calling on the Minister for Justice to prioritise this area in the interests of the taxpayer. By streamlining the existing asylum system, treating people with dignity and in a timely manner, we could save the taxpayer a small fortune”, he said.