Number of asylum seekers down by a third
09/06/2004 - 19:43:53

The number of people seeking asylum in Ireland has dropped by almost a third over the last year, it emerged today.

Applications fell by 32%, to 7,900, compared to 11,634 in 2002, the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner revealed.

The office processed some 9% more applications than it received helping to reduce the backlog inherited in 2000, the 2003 annual report also showed.

Berenice O’Neill, Refugee Commissioner, added that there was also a significant fall in the number of people who had withdrawn their applications, down from over 6,000 in 2002, to 1,243 last year.

Ms O’Neill said the drop of almost 5,000 was due to the outcome of the L and O case in the Supreme Court last year.

The court ruled that parents of Irish-born children no longer had the automatic right to citizenship.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said the drop in applications was the second highest reduction in any country in the European Union.

But he added that while less people were being granted asylum, those in need of protection could find it in Ireland.

Mr McDowell said: “This country went through a crash course of being a net emigration country to a high immigration country in a very short period of time.

“It’s a great tribute to our mechanisms that the Irish people have collectively kept a low centre of gravity on this issue and not allowed it to be exploited for any maligned purposes.”

The minister added that it was due to the work of ORAC that Ireland had avoided many of the problems suffered by other European states on the issue of asylum.

Over 90% of applications after independent determination, investigation, and appeal, were found not to meet the refugee definition set down in the Geneva convention and the 1996 Refugee Act.

Mr McDowell said: “The 10% of people that are in need of protection find that protection in Ireland, and find it much faster and in circumstances much quicker than was the case at the outset of our procedures.”

The ORAC report also showed a steady reduction in applications throughout last year. From almost 1,000 in January 2003, the figure fell to under 400 by the end of December.

ORAC was set up as an independent organisation in 2000 to act as the decision-making body in the State’s asylum system.

Established under the 1996 Refugee Act the commissioner is required to offer recommendations to the Government on whether or not asylum should be granted.

The report showed that more applications are received from Eastern Europe and Africa than any other area.

In the previous two years more applicants came from Nigeria than any other country, while the number of asylum seekers from Romania has fallen to just under 10% since last year.

Figures also showed the majority of applicants were aged between 26 to 35 years-old, also a similar pattern to the annual reports for 2001 and 2002.

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