Asylum seekers now waiting longer to move through initial stage of process

Waiting times have increased to an average of 18 to 20 months compared with about 11 weeks in 2015

A demonstartion for the unrestricted right to work for asylum seekers outside the Dáil earlier this year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

A demonstartion for the unrestricted right to work for asylum seekers outside the Dáil earlier this year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The housing crisis and the move to a new application system are lengthening the time it is taking asylum seekers to move through the system, a report published on Wednesday finds.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) warns asylum seekers are now waiting an average of 18 to 20 months to finish the first stage in the asylum process compared with about 11 weeks in 2015.

“Staff and resource shortages, in the context of increasing applications, contributed to a backlog of cases developing in 2014 to 2015,” says the report, titled Ireland Response to Recent Trends in International Protection Applications.

The International Protection Act 2015, was intended to speed applicants’ progress through the system, by streamlining the asylum process from a number of consecutive steps which could take many years, to a new ‘single-step’ process.

Though the process is faster, there are bottlenecks at the beginning.

“Limited staff resources impacted on waiting times,” says the report.

While more expert staff were appointed to conduct interviews and make recommendations and decisions “a shortage of administrative staff remains”.

“The longer waiting times come at a time when applications are increasing, with Syrian nationals being the biggest single group of applicants in 2017.”

The housing crisis is causing bottlenecks in the accommodation system.

“Refugees and others granted permission to remain in Ireland may not be in a position to leave centres if they can’t find alternative accommodation.

“Improvements made to direct provision centres, for example the introduction of self-catering units, have reduced bed capacity in some centres. The system is operating at almost full capacity and authorities have struggled to procure additional accommodation centres to house asylum applicants.”

In 2016, there were 2,244 asylum applications and in 2017, there were 2,926 applications. The majority of applicants in 2017 were from Syria, followed by Georgia, Albania, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

Under the burden-sharing EU relocation programme, 1,022 people arrived to Ireland from Greece, between January 2016 and March 2018. This figure includes 14 unaccompanied minors and separated children from Syria.

By February 2018, 36 unaccompanied minors had arrived in Ireland from Calais under the Calais Special Project.