The following quote is Roderic O’Gorman’s sole explanation for the increase in the number of non-Ukraine related asylum seekers in Ireland so far this year.
“Since the lifting of international travel restrictions post-Covid-19, there has been a significant increase of new arrivals to Ireland seeking international protection.”
So Minister O’Gorman contends that the various states of lockdown over the last two years meant that some share of asylum seekers Ireland ordinarily receives had to postpone fleeing their countries of origin until this year and that means we’re getting a double-helping now.
But is he right? Let’s look at the figures.
The total number of asylum applicants Ireland received in 2021 year was 2,649.
In 2020, the figure was 1,566.
Before Covid19, in comparison, the number of asylum applications Ireland received was:
• 3,408 in 2019.
• 3,673 in 2018.
• 2,926 in 2017.
So we were averaging around 3,300 asylum applications per annum pre-covid, and to maintain that average in 2020 & 2021, we would have needed an additional 2,385 asylum seekers in those years.
That means the number of asylum applicants did drop. Minister O’Gorman is correct on that point.
But how many asylum seekers is Ireland receiving this year?
Are we set to only receive an additional 2,385 asylum applications on top of the usual average number of 3,300?
In the first four months of this year, there were 3,353 applications for asylum made in Ireland. The figures for May and June have not been released but we can deduce what they are as Minister O’Gorman told us this week that the number of people in Direct Provision currently stands at 13,000. At the end of November last year, he told us this figure was 7,089.
Ireland received 455 applications for asylum in December 2021. So at the beginning of the year there must have been around 7,544 asylum seekers in Direct Provision. A tiny portion may have sorted out their own accommodation.
If there’s now 13,000 people in Direct Provision, that means 5,456 non-Ukraine related asylum seekers have arrived so far in 2022. The IPO has provided the figures for the first three months and Eurostat has the figures for April so we can calculate the combined figure for May and June:
• January: 390
• February: 750
• March: 1,040
• April: 1,170
• May & June: 2,112
Therefore, if no further asylum seekers arrive for the rest of the year, it would mean we have made up for the shortfall in asylum applications over the last two years and received the regular amount we’ve usually been getting in recent years. Minister O’Gorman will stand correct on his statement.
But how likely is that no more asylum seekers will arrive from now until the end of the year?
I would guess not very. We’re currently averaging over 1,000 asylum applicants each month for the past four months. There’s nothing to suggest that’s going to taper off in the short term.
In May, I reported that Ireland is on course to take in 13,000 non-Ukrainian asylum seekers by the end this year. It looks like that’s an accurate prediction.
It’s also what Minister Roderic O’Gorman believes. He told a UN session of the Human Rights Committee on July 4th that he expects between 12,000 and 15,000 asylum applicants will be arriving in Ireland this year — the largest number since 2002 and quadruple the figures for any recent years. He says this has contributed to delaying his plan to provide all asylum seekers with their own homes within four months of arrival which is why we’re going to see more towns like Kinnegad become repositories for large groups of asylum seekers very soon.
Minister Roderic O’Gorman explaining to the UN that he expects 12,000 to 15,000 asylum seekers to arrive in Ireland this year, quadrupling the 2019 figure.
Kinnegad learned abruptly last weekend that the town is to accommodate 150 military aged males. To accommodate a further 13,00, another 79 towns like Kinnegad will be required or 6 and half every month. That’s 3 per county and that’s just for this year. Anyone could wake up and discover their town is next if it has a hotel, and that hotel doesn’t have to be empty. Kinnegad’s wasn’t. Harry’s hotel had been accommodating Croatian employees for a local multinational until the Polish hotel owner decided without consulting the community that a year long government contract to accommodate asylum seekers was more lucrative.
If the lockdown isn’t solely responsible for the increase in asylum applications, what else could be causing it?
There’s been two policy changes within the last year for dealing with asylum applicants in Ireland which could be playing a factor.
- As mentioned, Minister Roderic O’Gorman intends to scrap the Direct Provision system and provide asylum seekers with their own-door accommodation within four months of arrival regardless of the merit of their asylum applications.
- Minister Helen McEntee has granted an amnesty to all asylum seekers in the system who have been here for over two years regardless of what stage of the process they’re in or whether they’ve failed their applications as part of her blanket amnesty for illegals programme. Applications for that programme end this month but there’s nothing to suggest there won’t be another. In 2018, there was a similar blanket amnesty for failed asylum seekers although the public wasn’t informed about it.
To accomplish his goal of providing all asylum seekers with their own home within four months of arrival, Minister O’Gorman told an ICCPR meeting at the UN on July 4th that there’s been close engagement with the Department of Housing and the Irish Housing Agency in terms of creating a funding model for NGOs to purchase housing to accommodate the asylum seekers. So first-time buyers won’t only be competing with foreign investment firms and the State to purchase housing, but state-funded NGOs too.
O’Gorman says an independent group has also been put in place to oversee the ending of Direct Provision comprising Dr Catherine Day, Dr. David O’Donoghue and Dr Lorcan Sirr. You might remember Dr Sirr suggested the government should request the use of Ireland’s 60,000 empty holiday homes to house the Ukrainian refugees earlier in the year. He said if empty homes aren’t given up voluntarily, the State should acquire them on a compulsory basis.
Minister Roderic O’Gorman telling the UN how the government intends to end Direct Provision on July 4th this year
Up to 90% of asylum seekers fail their application each year as their lives are not found to be in danger in their home countries, yet few are ever deported. In Ireland, if an asylum seekers appeals the decision to reject their application, the process can take up to five years and they are subsequently entitled to remain in the State.
No deportations took place over the last two years due to the lockdown but in 2019 when the last year deportations took place, there were more than 2,000 such orders issued, but just 298 were enforced. In 2018, there were 1,117 orders issued and 163 enforced.
This all makes Ireland a very attractive destination for people who want to move here illegally or take advantage of the asylum system. There’s little threat of deportation and they’re promised their own home within four months of arrival. Some Irish citizens in comparison are on the housing list for over twelve years.
The top countries Ireland is receiving applicants from this year are Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Georgia, Albania, Algeria, South Africa, Syria and Zimbabwe.
In 2018, asylum applicants from Albania had a 99.7% failure rate while the failure rate for Georgians was 97%, so despite the recent crack down on human trafficking from Georgia with Leo Varadkar acknowledging the problem, they still appear to be arriving here.
Nigerians have a slightly better success rate with only 95% of applicants failing their asylum application in 2018, while 86% of Zimbabweans also failed. In 2017, all asylum seekers from Pakistan were rejected.
The numbers failing their applications have decreased a little recently which could be explained by the lobbying efforts of the NGO community or perhaps the introduction of the role of a new International Protection Officer who has the ability to dispense with the interview process for asylum seekers at their discretion and grant anyone they like refugee status.
Irish delegation member explains the function of a new International Protection Officer role at the UN’s ICCPR on July 4th 2022
Will other towns like Kinnegad be able to resist the settlement of asylum seekers in their community?
I don’t think it will be possible until the public at large are educated on the real nature of asylum system and then these concerns are then brought to their elected representatives with demands the system be fixed.
Asylum seekers are moved into a town without local consultation because the government understands that it would be met with opposition otherwise. If a town wakes up one morning to find 150 foreign men have been moved into their community, there’s little they can do to reverse the decision. What you can do is use the situation to educate locals. Few will have looked into the issue of asylum beforehand and understand the extent to which the system is being gamed and how badly it is being managed.
It is important also to participate in any local community groups that are set up to liaise with the government and act as representatives. There is often an effort to channel local frustration away from the community’s own well-being and criticism of the asylum system itself.
At the beginning of the week after Kinnegad had just received the new members of their community, The Labour Party’s Cllr Denis Leonard was highlighting on his facebook page the numerous incidents of criminal activity among the asylum seekers which he said had left most residents of Kinnegad feeling unsafe.
By the end of the week, his concerns related to the welfare of the asylum seekers, writing:
“We asked in the meantime that our strong objection to this program be fed back to the minister considering the unsuitability of Harrys from a humanitarian perspective and the lack of facilities in Kinnegad and the misguided policy of putting 150 single men from anywhere in cramped conditions.”
The Labour Party has advocated for all asylum seekers to be granted residency once they’ve been here any longer than two years so it’s probably unlikely he’s going to highlight the problems that allow the system to be taken advantage of and call for meaningful change. The system is only going to change when we get people into office who will.
That means educating the public should be your number 1 priority. With many towns about suffer a similar fate to Kinnegad, we will have plenty of opportunity.
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