Concern over rise in people seeking asylum from ‘safe’ countries

Number of new applications set for 15-year high as direct provision system struggling

The number of people seeking asylum in the State increased by more than one third in the first six months of the year when compared to 2018, a period when numbers reached a 10-year high.

The Department of Justice said it was concerned that many of those making claims for asylum in the State were originating from places classified as “safe countries”.

Some 41 per cent of all asylum claims in the first half of the year were from Albanian, Georgian and South African nationals. All three countries are officially regarded as "safe countries of origin" by Ireland. This means the State considers them as safe and stable democracies. An asylum seeker from a country regarded as safe is much less likely to be granted leave to remain in the State.

“The rising numbers of applicants from countries considered safe countries of origin by the UN is a concern,” the department said in response to queries about the recent trends.


It later clarified that statement, saying the UN had been mentioned in error. It confirmed the Government, not the UN, determined which nations were deemed “safe countries of origin” by Ireland.

The department added the asylum system, also known as "international protection", was intended for “those fleeing their homes in desperate circumstances”.

So far this year some 2,234 new claims for asylum have been made, up 36 per cent on the same period last year.

Economic migrants

A spokesman for the Georgian embassy said Georgia was a developing democracy that was both "safe and stable". He suggested that Georgians coming to Ireland were economic migrants.

The number of claims for asylum in the State, from all nationalities, peaked at 11,634 cases in 2002. Applications dropped to 946 in 2013 and have been rising since. The number of claims this year looks set to reach about 5,000, which would be the highest since 2004.

The increase in the number seeking asylum comes at a time when the direct provision system is already seriously overcrowded and concern is rising about conditions in the centres where people are accommodated.

A total of 6,212 asylum seekers are currently living in 38 direct provision centres, including 780 people who have received refugee status or permission to remain but have been unable to secure accommodation.

An additional 1,087 people who have claimed asylum, including about 180 children, are staying in 30 emergency accommodation centres which have opened in hotels and B&Bs in recent months. There were 210 people sleeping in emergency beds in December.

‘Immense strain’

The Irish Refugee Council has called for all children to be removed from emergency accommodation centres immediately.

The Reception and Integration Agency, which oversees accommodation for asylum seekers, has described the use of temporary centres as “a regrettable but necessary feature”, but warned that the system was under “immense strain”. While most asylum seekers live in accommodation organised by the State, some choose to stay with family or friends while they await the outcome of their application.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

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