Asylum claims up 45% in first rise since 2002

Refugee crises and unrest in Asia, Africa driving global trends

  Italian Coast Guard operation to rescue 194 Syrian refugees in the Mediterranean    on  December 19th. Photograph: EPA/Italian Coast Guard

Italian Coast Guard operation to rescue 194 Syrian refugees in the Mediterranean on December 19th. Photograph: EPA/Italian Coast Guard


The number of foreign nationals making asylum claims after arriving in the Republic is on course to increase by almost 50 per cent by the end of the year.

The increase follows a decline in numbers arriving for the past 11 years, with a number of serious refugee crises driving global trends.

A senior justice source said the fact the Republic was regarded internationally as recovering from its recessionary years may be a contributory factor for some of the increase.

New data obtained by The Irish Times from the Department of Justice reveals an increase of just over 45 per cent in asylum claims in the first 11 months of the year when compared with the same period last year.

In total 1,276 claims for asylum were made in the Republic in the 11 months to the end of November, compared with 879 in the same period last year.

While data for the last three weeks is not yet available, Department of Justice officials believe claims will reach 1,400 for the full year when the December figures are known. That compares to 950 in all of last year, or a projected increase of 47 per cent.

The increase in asylum applications this year follows an 11-year period in which numbers declined annually. The last time applications increased was 2002, when there were a record 11,634 claims.

Justice sources noted the level of claims this year was still much lower than the period to 2002.

However, the situation was being monitored with a view to allocating further resources to the area if the increase was sustained or became more pronounced.

The number of those of Pakistani origin claiming asylum has increased by a significant 65 per cent this year and they have accounted of the single biggest group claiming asylum.

They were followed by Nigerians and Albanians, though a more detailed breakdown was not yet available.

When figures emerged earlier this year, some 13 per cent of all claimants to that point in 2014 were from Pakistan, the highest of any nation. Nigeria was next, its citizens accounting for 11 per cent.

Last year Nigeria topped the table, with 14 per cent of all asylum seekers coming from there. Pakistan was next, the country of origin for 11 per cent of claimants.

Those working with asylum seekers here said continuing conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Pakistan had driven many from the country. Attacks on Taliban strongholds were also displacing people in the region.

The Irish Refugee Council said it was important to put into context the numbers seeking asylum in Ireland.

When the council examined figures for 44 industrialised nations, they found only 15 in every 10,000 asylum seekers made their claims in the Republic.

As well as the general levels of unrest in parts of Africa and across the Middle East driving trends, the council has cited the turmoil in Libya as a key factor.

It said more asylum seekers than ever were landing in Europe having departed Libya via the coast, which was no longer being policed properly because of the unrest there.