Significant increase in numbers seeking asylum in Republic

Minister for Justice says cost of direct provision accommodation now €67m per year

Charlie Flanagan: he said an increase in the number seeking asylum had begun last year following a ‘steady decline’ since 2008.

Charlie Flanagan: he said an increase in the number seeking asylum had begun last year following a ‘steady decline’ since 2008.

 

The number of foreign nationals claiming asylum in the Republic has increased significantly in the first two months of the year. If trends witnessed in January and February continue, the rate of asylum-seeking is expected to rise this year to a level not seen for a decade.

New Department of Justice figures reveal 599 new asylum claims were made in the first two months of the year compared with 406 in 2016 and 387 in 2017. If those numbers were maintained throughout the year, asylum claims would reach in excess of 3,500; the highest level since 2008 when 3,800 new asylum seekers arrive in Ireland.

Georgia accounted for most applicants in the first two months of the year with 110. This was followed by 105 from Syria, 56 from Albania, 46 from Pakistan and 42 from Zimbabwe.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said an increase had begun last year following a “steady decline” since 2008. He told an Oireachtas Committee on Justice he did not believe there was anything to suggest numbers would decrease again soon.

Mr Flanagan said it cost €67 million per annum to accommodate asylum seekers in the direct provision system.

Cause for concern

Informed sources said while it was too early to determine if the increase would be continued, the trends were a cause for concern within the Department of Justice.

Senior Garda officers believe the Republic may be seen as a staging post for illegal entry into Britain after Brexit.

Independent TD Mick Wallace said that given all the wars around the world, it was no surprise the asylum-seeker figures were increasing. He said the accommodation provided in the direct provision system was “despicable”.

Disagreeing, Mr Flanagan said what was more concerning was the length of time people spent in direct provision. Some 400 people were in the system for five years, and he had met one woman who claimed she had been there 10 years. However, the system did provide for “the basic needs” of people.

“At the end of 2016 there were 4,425 in [direct provision] accommodation,” he said. “By the end of 2017 that number had risen to over 5,000. And that increase in demand has continued over the past few months. We continue to monitor the situation. However, the [€67 million] sum provided is indicative of the type of requirement.”

Full-board basis

Direct provision involves the State providing accommodation on a full-board basis in direct provision centres. The system is run by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA). Allowances are paid to people in the system; €21.60 per adult or child per week.

If asylum seekers can support themselves or have family or friends they can live with while their asylum application is being processed, they did not have to live in direct provision. However, because they have not had the right to work in Ireland, the vast majority of asylum seekers have no option but to live in direct provision.