More than 21,000 people awaiting first decision on international protection application

Figures high despite accelerated processing system from so-called safe countries introduced almost two years ago

More than 21,000 international protection applicants are awaiting a first instance decision on their application despite Government moves to fast-track the cases of people from some countries, official figures show.

Almost 100 people have been waiting more than two years for a first determination on their applications.

In a reply to a parliamentary question from Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said 21,577 applicants were awaiting a first instance decision from the International Protection Office (IPO) as of April 30th.

Ms McEntee said 21,080 people had been in the system for less than two years and almost 70 per cent (15,000) had been waiting for one year or less for a decision. The Minister also confirmed that, as of the end of April, a total of 5,087 appeals had been registered with the IPO against negative first instance determinations.


An accelerated system for processing international protection applications from so-called safe countries was introduced almost two years ago, with decisions on these to be made within three months.

Last month, Ms McEntee added Nigeria to the list despite it not being classified as a safe country of origin. This was due to new rule providing that people from the country with the highest number of applicants will be subject to the accelerated process. Some 2,000 people from Nigeria have sought international protection in the State this year, around one third of all applicants.

The safe country list also includes Albania; Algeria; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Botswana; Georgia; Kosovo; North Macedonia; ­Montenegro; Serbia; and South Africa. When the fast-track procedures were introduced, the number of applications from Georgia and Albania fell significantly.

Separately, a total of 50 people who crossed the border from Northern Ireland into the State illegally were refused entry during two operations carried out by gardaí over the course of eight days late last year and earlier this year.

The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) conducted checkpoint on the M1 motorway between October 9th and 13th last, stopping buses travelling between Belfast and Dublin. In all, 25 people (22 adults and three minors) were detected entering the State without visas or identity documents.

All 25 were returned to the UK by ferry from Dublin to Holyhead. In addition, one suspect was arrested and charged with facilitating illegal entry into the State and one suspect was charged with facilitation of illegal entry into the UK.

Over four separate days in February, another operation was carried out by GNIB officers who stopped a total of 47 buses travelling southbound to Dublin. Immigration checks were carried out in respect of all passengers on board.

A total of 25 people were detected entering the State illegally, without the relevant visas or travel documents. All were subsequently refused leave to land and returned to the UK by ferry to Holyhead (19) and by train to Belfast (six).

The operations were carried out as part of Operation Sonnet, a long-standing joint arrangement between the GNIB and the Immigration Enforcement Team in Northern Ireland. The details were contained in monthly reports submitted by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to the Policing Authority.

The Department of Social Protection told the Public Accounts Committee in January that an estimated 80,000 Ukrainians, including children, remained in the State as temporary refugees. An estimated 17,000 were in employment with the remaining 63,000 receiving social welfare, child benefit or on employment schemes. The majority of the total was made up of women and children.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times