Migration system may be tightened over spike in international protection applicants

More than 6,000 sought asylum in Ireland so far in 2024, a rise of almost 80% on last year’s figure

The Cabinet will discuss introducing urgent measures to tighten up the migration system on Tuesday in response to a dramatic spike in the number of international protection applicants who have arrived in Ireland during 2024.

A total of 6,069 people sought asylum between January 1st and April 12th, an increase of almost 80 per cent on numbers from the comparable period for 2023. A third of all applicants, 2,053, are citizens of one country, Nigeria. The number of Nigerian applications so far in 2024 is now equal to the total number of asylum seekers from there for the whole of 2023.

There is concern within the Coalition that the numbers will continue to spiral upwards, with particular concern about the number of Nigerian applicants. Sources said the majority of those seemed to be coming from Britain, and from other secondary countries, as there are no direct flights between Nigeria and Ireland.

In the fortnight between March 28th and April 12th, there were almost 1,000 new applications, with 400 of them from Nigeria. Last week, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Brian Stanley, and Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín, separately predicted the total number of people seeking international protection could surpass 20,000 in 2024 if the current trajectory were to continue.


Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will bring a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday proposing new measures to stem the increasing flow of applicants. At present, there is accelerated processing for people who are deemed to come from safe countries of origin. That has led to a significant downturn of applications from countries such as Georgia and Algeria since the introduction of this fast-track process.

Ms McEntee will tell colleagues she intends to introduce accelerated processing for the country with the highest number of applications in the previous three months, if it is not a safe country. If that is agreed by the Cabinet on Tuesday, it will apply to applicants from Nigeria, which is not classified as a safe country of origin.

The Irish Times understands the memo will also look to tighten visa requirements for people from South Africa, which make up some 200 of the applications for 2024.

Ms McEntee said on Sunday: “Fast processing works. It gives protection really quickly to those who have a case, while those who don’t are clearly beginning to see that risking a refusal and a deportation order is not worth it.

“We can see that from the dramatic drop in arrivals from countries we have designated as safe. So we’re extending fast hearings to whatever country in any prior three month period had the greatest number of applicants. And right now, that happens to be Nigeria.”

At present, accelerated processing is being undertaken in regard to safe countries of origin – the current designated ones being Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Georgia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and South Africa.

Meanwhile, the number of Palestinians seeking asylum is continuing to rise, with charities and support workers reporting a notable increase in homeless Palestinian men on the streets of Dublin. Official figures show that 170 Palestinians had arrived in the first three months of 2024.

Some 1,717 asylum seeking men are homeless and awaiting an offer of accommodation, according to the latest figures from the Department of Integration.

An estimated 100 people are still camping outside the International Protection Office on Mount Street, while approximately 150 others are staying in tents at the Crooksling site on the outskirts of Dublin city. A department official confirmed no women or children are homeless or sleeping in tents.

Aubrey McCarthy, chair of Tiglin at the Lighthouse, said the Pearse Street support service is still serving a record number 500-600 meals per day while handing out between 70 and 100 tents and sleeping bags each week.

“Often with a service like ours, you meet the same people day in and day out, but now there are new people presenting daily,” said Mr McCarthy. “We are finding a lot of Palestinians arriving and some people are travelling all the way from the Crooksling site. We wonder if they just want to be part of the community.”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

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