The cost to the state of providing free legal aid for asylum seekers has risen sharply – surging by 274% over 5 years between 2017 and 2022.
The case expenditure last year came to more than €2 million in relation to the provision of legal aid and advice in the area of international protection, as provided by the Legal Aid Board.
Carol Nolan TD had asked the Minister for Justice, Simon Harris, the costs incurred by the Legal Aid Board in case expenditure following decisions to engage private solicitors to provide the services.
The Laois-Offaly TD was told that:
The following table shows the case expenditure (not including pay or operational costs) in relation to the provision of legal aid and advice in the area of international protection, as provided by the Legal Aid Board.
“The Legal Aid Board is the statutory body responsible for the provision of civil legal aid and advice to persons of modest means in the State,” the reply stated. “Civil legal aid and advice is provided primarily through a network of law centres by solicitors employed by the Legal Aid Board. There are 34 full time and 3 part-time law centres and specialised units.”
“Arising from the enactment of the International Protection Act 2015, the Legal Aid Board integrated the Refugee Legal Service into its main law centre network. Specific law centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway currently include an international protection speciality. International protection is one of many services provided by those law centres. The Legal Aid Board also engages private solicitors to provide services in international protection cases. A substantial portion of the Board’s international protection cases are handled by private practitioners,” the response said.
The Minister said that “In Budget 2023, I provided an increased provision of over €7.8 million for the Legal Aid Board bringing its total funding to €53.060 million for this year, a 17% increase on its out-turn for 2022.”
“This will enable the Board to recruit additional staff and meet other costs to enhance delivery of all of its services across the country,” he said.