Significant Reduction in number of Asylum applications
According to figures published by the Office of the Reception and Integration agency, asylum applications in Ireland have reached their lowest level in over ten years. 2,689 people sought asylum in Ireland in 2009. This represents a 30% drop from the 2008 figures. Just 7 years ago, asylum applications had risen to an annual figure of over 11,000. The number of asylum applications has been falling continuously since then.
The Irish Independent attributes the drop to ‘a crackdown by immigration authorities’. The Department of Justice has said that roughly 1 in 10 of all asylum applicants achieve refugee status on ‘the first attempt’. Deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers rose in 2009 by roughly 80%. The Irish Times reports that ‘In total, 681 persons were either assisted to return home voluntarily or were removed from the State in 2009, representing an increase of 24.7 per cent on the corresponding figure for 2008.’
Roisin Boyd of the Irish Refugee Council has warned that the system must not be geared towards deterring people at risk from making asylum applications in Ireland at all:
“The reasons that applications for asylum to Ireland appear to have dropped are numerous — including increased security which makes it harder for asylum seekers to access EU territory…But those who seek protection will never stop seeking it no matter how many barriers are erected. No asylum seeker must ever be returned to a country where their life is in danger…At this time of year in particular it is important that we cherish the fact that we in Ireland live in a democracy and enjoy the freedoms that entails — many asylum seekers do not have these freedoms and we must ensure they are allowed to apply for asylum and to have their cases heard in Ireland.”
Fine Gael, responding to the Minister’s expression of satisfaction at this year’s figures, have been most concerned about the expense associated with the asylum process. Political attention ought also to turn to the human impact of the direct provision system, highlighted by Liam here as well as in this recent article in the Irish Times.