As the Irish state struggles – and now privately admits that it is struggling – with the problem of housing thousands of Ukrainians, the latest figures on numbers applying for international protection to the end of January shed a light on how Ireland deals with applications for asylum.
These figures are for applications for asylum prior to the invasion of Ukraine and they make for interesting reading.
Statistics from the Irish office of the International Protection Office provide evidence that not only have the number of applications for asylum greatly increased here over the past number of months, but that a significant proportion of applicants continue to be from what are not considered to be “unsafe” countries.
As the tables for January 2022 and 2021 show, among the top five countries of origin for asylum seekers here are multiple countries which are not considered to be unsafe for the purposes of international protection. There are no wars or other human rights emergencies to justify the fact that over a third of asylum seekers are from states such as Nigeria, Georgia, Algeria and South Africa.
In contrast our nearest neighbour across the Irish Sea receives relatively very few asylum applications from Nigeria, South Africa or Zimbabwe despite the historical connections between those countries and Britain. None of those countries were among the top ten from where applicants claimed to be seeking protection according to Gov.uk statistics.
The high numbers of applicants from safe countries – as defined by the United Nations and others – has been consistently the case in this country for 30 years now. Yet when the Irish state half-heartedly decided to tackle the issue of people arriving here from Georgia and Albania prior to Covid restrictions reducing the number of travellers anyway, the immigration authorities were attacked by professionals in the migration sector who claimed that the enhanced surveillance measures designed to prevent the destruction of travel and other documents, contravened international law.
Nor surprisingly the migration lobbyists were successful, and the state stepped back from addressing what was and is an obvious abuse. The simple fact is that people who travel from safe countries in other parts of Europe and Africa to Ireland are strongly believed to routinely destroy the passports, tickets and other documentation that allowed them to fly here in the first place.
So, given the huge self interest and the massive political and media opposition to doing as other countries do and attempt to ensure that asylum is confined to genuine applicants, there is little likelihood that even the current attempts to accommodate people genuinely fleeing the war in Ukraine will lead to any crackdown on those who are making false applications and imposing an unsustainable and costly burden on the state and its citizens.
The current difficulties in housing genuine refugees from the Ukrainian war are also compounded by the fact that in recent months it has been reported that the majority of asylum seekers from safe countries are being housed in hotel accommodation.
It is surely no coincidence either that the numbers travelling here from safe countries in order to apply for asylum in Ireland has greatly increased in the wake of the amnesty that was declared for illegal immigrants, and the promises of free housing that is already estimated will cost €450 million in 2022 alone.
On top of that we have a claim, made by then Minister of State for Justice with responsibility for immigration David Stanton in 2017, that each asylum applicant here on average applies to have another 20 people join them as part of the “family reunification scheme.”
How the Irish state proposes to balance all of that with the Ukrainian refugee crisis – especially when anecdotal evidence would suggest that people who have very little or anything to do with the war there are attempting to use it to claim residency – is anyone’s guess.