The latest figures released by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration on Youth on the occupancy figures for International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) report 19,635 residents for the week ending January 29, 2023.
A remarkable increase from the 10,447 recorded on 27 March 2022 and the 16,838 recorded on 30 October. For the week, 251 arrivals were recorded, most of whom (77%) were International Protection Office arrivals. Approximately 50% of the arrivals were reported as single males, 20% as children, 13% as single females, 9% as couples and 7% as single parents.
The breakdown by county shows that close to 40% are residing in Dublin, with Cork, Wicklow, Meath and Donegal also reporting large populations slightly below or slightly higher than 1,000. There are curiously zero occupants currently residing in Carlow, the only county that has recorded as such.
The most interesting statistics however are those of nationality. As the national debate surrounding immigration becomes increasingly more invective-laden, particularly concerning the establishment of asylum seeker accommodation, a thorough analysis of these figures may help to advance the public debate.
International Protection in Ireland is granted to those who have a ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’ i.e. refugee status, or subsidiary protection status, which means that one cannot return to their own country at risk of serious harm, but otherwise does not qualify for refugee status.
What may necessarily designate a person as a refugee is of course, determinable only on a case-by-case basis using proper procedural norms, but the public perception of refugee status is generally fleeing war, terrorism or extreme instability. It has also traditionally formed much of the argument in favour of asylum-seeker accommodation.
Using methodology from the Global Conflict Tracker, run by the Council of Foreign Relations, we can report that approximately 58% of International Protection occupants are from countries that are not at war, nor are they from countries suffering from terrorist insurgencies or extreme instability.
This includes occupants originally from Georgia, the largest nationality recorded, at 3,225 occupants. Georgia has been at peace since the cessation of the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, is designated by the Department of Justice as a ‘safe country of origin’ and according to the Georgian Ambassador to Ireland, George Zurabashvili, there are ‘no political circumstances’ that would justify Georgian nationals to claim asylum in Ireland.
Other nationalities prominently featured in the figures included Algeria (at peace since the cessation of its Civil War in 2002), with 2,031 occupants, Zimbabwe (at peace since the fall of Rhodesia in 1979) with 1,763 occupants and Albania (which has not been at war since the Second World War and which has been a pro-Western European democracy since the fall of the Communist regime in 1991), with 532 occupants. Some of the stranger, more inexplicable nationalities reported include Brazil, with 56 occupants, Turkey, with 43 and even the United States, with 29.
21% of occupants however, those whose country of origin is either Nigeria or Somalia, live in regions undergoing terrorist insurgencies, from Boko Haram and Al-Shabab respectively. Additionally, almost 14% are originally from states undergoing extreme instability, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
Only 3.2% of occupants, their origin concentrated in just three countries, Ukraine (350 occupants), Syria (219 occupants) and Yemen (45 occupants), are originally from countries presently at war.
Another 537 occupants come from nations classified as ‘Other’, so cannot be accurately determined as to their country of origin’s present status. A very small number of occupants may also have reported no nationality whatsoever.
The legal definition of ‘safe country of origin’ however is more complex; for there is no universal standard within the European Union, being left to individual members states to determine. For instance, Algeria is classified as a ‘safe country of origin’ by nine EU member states, including the Netherlands, Italy and Greece, but not by Ireland. South Africa, on the contrary, is classified as a ‘safe country of origin’ by Ireland. Yet Ireland is only one of two member states, the other being Slovakia, which classifies South Africa as such.
There are at present just eight nations classified as ‘safe countries of origin’ by the International Protection Act 2015: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and South Africa. Nonetheless, almost a quarter of current International Protection occupants are originally from these ‘safe countries of origin’, as determined by Irish law.
Using a broader and probably more accurate determination of ‘safe country of origin’, we can assess that most of International Protection occupants at present probably fall within that category.