On the 15th of November of last year an Aer Lingus Airbus A330-300 touched down on the tarmac of Dublin airport with 160 Syrian nationals. Largely unannounced the refugees were shepherded off the plane by officials wearing UN lanyards and whisked away to a North Dublin location before dispersal to reception locations in Roscommon and Waterford.

The operation, conducted with minimal fanfare, occurred as part of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). The IRPP is the Irish State’s response to human displacement from the Middle East and Africa, which commenced with Irish officials travelling to Beirut to interview potential applicants in March 2020.

The flight itself was chartered by the UN-funded International Organisation For Migration (IOM), a key but quiet figure in the asylum industry since its arrival on our shores in 2001, helping to organise transportation for refugees into Ireland, including the provision of travel documents.

Overall, 2020 and the covid phenomenon threw a wrench in the works for asylum processing, with a 67.3% nosedive drop in applications for international protection at just over 1500 from 2019. An interesting feature in comparison between 2019 and 2020 figures is the erasure of Georgian and Albanian nationals who had dominated asylum numbers since 2016. A Europe-wide phenomenon of fraudulent applications, even the Irish State was warned by Georgian diplomats not to allow what were very clearly bogus applicants from the former Soviet State to overload the system.

What should also be highlighted is that attempts to clean up the asylum process by clamping down on fraudulent asylum seekers from Georgia were frustrated almost at every turn by the nation’s well-oiled open borders lobby, both in print and in the courtrooms.

In August of last year the Department of Justice earmarked €770,000 for the creation of several Regional Support Organisations (RSOs), to assist the acceptance of the 4,000 Syrian refugees by 2023, which the Irish State has promised to take as part of its humanitarian commitment to the Syrian crisis. As part of this in 2019 it was announced that the State was to accept just shy of 3,000 Syrians and 150 Eriterians to complement the 1,000 already in the country, with €9 million provided by the European Commission being set aside to facilitate the process.

Under a Freedom of Information Request, The Burkean attempted to ascertain the individuals lobbying the Department of Justice for contracts as part of the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) for RSO centres and other projects. The reply given was a heavily redacted document, free from any meaningful details with the excuse of confidentiality given. Suffice to say this decision will be appealed.

We did however learn in our request that the UN-backed International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) have both applied for funding under the scheme. Both the IOM and GNIB have also availed of €1.3 and €2.2 million respectively under the scheme since 2017. 

At a state-level the asylum system is a byzantine maze of interdepartmental organisations and various third-party NGOs. However the general roadmap for the next year of refugee acceptance from Syria looks as follows:

It should be remembered that the actual percentage of those that apply for international protection from Syria (or conflict zones for that matter) is in the 20% region with the bulk of applications for asylum arising from safe nations, eg. Nigeria, Albania, South Africa, Georgia, etc.

Presently and according to departmental documents seen by The Burkean, the Department of Justice is consulting a variety of stakeholders ranging from county councils, to the HSE, to the European Asylum Support Office, about furnishing the new arrivals with the proper ‘own door’ accommodation, primarily in the form of public housing.

The issue of the provision of housing for refugees amid a critical housing shortage has become rather contentious as of late, even in Irish officialdom, with the Department of Housing warning in November about the risks of the ‘own door’ proposal for all asylum seekers having knock on effects in the general housing market.

Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs) are one of the first ports of call for newly arrived Syrian asylum seekers entering Ireland, with 525 persons housed across 3 centres. While they are supposed to be stopgap measures while applications are processed, there are plans underway to expand the number of EROC places. Generally speaking the procedure is to send Syrians to EROCs before they are processed, and then be sent to new living arrangements.

The Burkean can reveal that the Department of Justice is in negotiation with the Department of Housing as well as the County and City Managers Association for the allocation of housing for new arrivals over the next three years. As of February this year, there are 240 Syrians waiting in EROC centres set to be sent to 19 various locations across 7 counties.

With 4,000 Syrians promised overall as part of the State’s humanitarian commitment, the acceptance programme in response to the conflict is perhaps a minor part of Ireland’s out of control migration and asylum outlook. One only has to grasp the sheer scale of PPS numbers being issued annually to non-nationals (normally in the region of 70,000 to 120,000 per annum) to fathom just how fast the demographic plates are shifting below our very feet.

Nonetheless, Syria and the Syrian people deserve our utmost sympathy due to the cynical attempts by foreign powers to pursue an internecine war against the Assad Government. However this should not blunt any concern toward attempts to use refugee flows as a tool of social engineering in Western nations to artificially boost population numbers. A refugee programme should be for temporary protection, not permanent resettlement. It should occur in nearby safe countries, such as Israel or Saudi Arabia, not in the remotest parts of county Roscommon. Once the war is declared over, those refugees under protection should be obliged to return and rebuild their home country, and be given financial assistance in order to do so.

The relative paucity of Syrian refugees heading to Ireland should not diminish the need for a proper and responsible opposition against such measures, as they are wholly inefficient and against the best interests of this country. After a brief covid hiatus, the asylum industry looks set to roar on, gobbling up resources at the behest of the international and national clique of NGOs who direct migration policy, regardless of whichever political faction is dominant in the Dáil.

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

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