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FACTCHECK: Was Roderic O’Gorman right to say all the 17,000 non-Ukrainian refugees came here “fleeing war”?

This week, Minister Roderic O’Gorman told the Dáil that, in addition to Ukrainian refugees, Ireland was also providing accommodation to 17,000 “men, women and children who are fleeing wars elsewhere”.

“Ukraine is not the only war on our planet right now,” he said in response to questions from the Independent TD, Mattie McGrath, about controversies that had arisen in East Wall and other communities when busloads of migrants claiming asylum had arrived in areas without consultation.

You can see the exchange here:

But was the Minister for Integration correct – or did he mislead the Dáil? Are the 17,000 people currently being accommodated in Ireland under international protection – 11,142 of whom arrived in the first ten months of 2022 – all people who are “fleeing wars elsewhere”?


In 2022, Ireland has experienced an unprecedented level of inward migration into the country.

Some of this is has been caused by the war in Ukraine – a fact acknowledged by both Mattie McGrath and by the Minister who said “we are providing accommodation to 64,000 people right now, many of whom are from Ukraine”.

However, there has also been a huge surge in the number of people coming to Ireland and claiming asylum, even though many are coming from countries such as Georgia which are not war-torn. They are being processed through the International Protection Office (IPO), and currently, as the Minister said some 17,000 people are being accommodated in that way.

That number does not include Ukrainians who are accepted into Ireland under a temporary protection directive adopted by all EU states.

In the first ten months of 2022, the IPO reports that the numbers coming to Ireland claiming asylum have rocketed – from 1,807 in 2021 to 11,142 to end of October 2022.

That’s an enormous increase – up by 516%, the IPO notes, and if the trend continues for November and December it will set a new record for migrants coming to Ireland claiming asylum:  and, again, that’s excluding the 60,000 plus Ukrainians who also have come in 2022.

Mattie McGrath said: “we need a proper debate and a proper understanding. We must listen to communities and not have the head of an NGO for dealing with refugees lecturing the community as to what they should do and how they should behave. This has gotten out of hand. We need a major review of how this is being handled.”

“It is causing strife and angst to everybody. We are trying to help people who are in a war, but these people are not from Ukraine,” he said.


Minister of Integration, Roderic O’Gorman responded by saying the 17,000 people who were not from Ukraine were “fleeing wars elsewhere”.

“As a country, we are providing accommodation to 64,000 people right now, many of whom are from Ukraine. These are men, women and children who are fleeing the war there. However, over 17,000 are men, women and children who are fleeing wars elsewhere. Ukraine is not the only war on our planet right now,” Minister O’Gorman said.

“There are wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Just as much as Ireland offers protection to women and children, we also offer protection to men because men are victims of torture and persecution as well. We will not make a determination on whether we protect someone due to his or her gender. We will make a decision in terms of when people have gone through an international protection application process. A determination will be made at the end of that.”

His claims were reported in the Irish Times under the headline – ‘Ukraine is not the only war on our planet’: Minister defends asylum accommodation process. 
Roderic O’Gorman says Ireland offers protection to men as well as to women and children who suffer ‘torture and persecution’.


Figures from the IPO to the end of October 2022, give a breakdown of the 11,142 people who have made applications through their offices so far this year.

Newstalk also reported that the IPO confirmed that 67% or 7,496 of those who arrived were men while 33% 3,635 were women”.

The figures shown below reveal that by far the highest number of applicants came from Georgia – a country generally described as “safe”, and which is not at war.

The number of migrants from Georgia to Ireland who are claiming to be asylum seekers has increased ten-fold in a year – from 215 people in the same period in 2021 to 2,300 people in the ten months to end of October 2022.

The IPO calculates that 20% of all those who claimed asylum in Ireland so far this year are from Georgia.

The issue of people coming to Ireland from Georgia claiming to be refugees has been a matter of controversy over the years.

In 2019, then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that, at the time, a lot of people from Georgia and Albania were coming to Ireland with “fake documents”, adding that he believed this was “a big driver of the increase in asylum seekers”.

While migrant rights groups were critical of his remarks, the Irish Times reported that Georgian ambassador to Ireland, George Zurabashvilli, said “there are no political circumstances for Georgians to seek asylum in any third countries”.

“He said his government is working with Ireland to prevent the “unauthorised travel of people abroad” and that to his knowledge, the majority of applications by Georgian nationals for asylum in Ireland are refused. The London embassy of Albania, which looks after Irish affairs, did not respond to a request for comment,” the paper noted.

Former Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has also raised the issue of the high number of Georgians in the asylum system in Ireland, pointing out that the country “was working steadily towards EU candidate status”.

Similarly, the number of people coming from Algeria has increased dramatically from less than 100 in the 2021 period to 1,318 in the first ten months of 2022.

That’s increase of more than 1000% in Algerians claiming asylum for the period compared to last year. Algeria is not a war-torn country.

The Minister also specifically referenced that there were wars in “Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

But the top five countries of origin listed for those claiming asylum does not include any of those countries for 2022 as the IPO figures show.


The IPO doesn’t tell us where 40% of the applicants who they’ve accommodated in 2022 thus far come from. They are grouped together as ‘other’. But we do know that some 32% of those who arrived in the first ten months of this year came from Georgia and Albania. 

Neither Georgia nor Algeria is a war-torn country. Minister O’Gorman is wrong to say that the 2,300 Georgians and the 1,318 Algerians who came to Ireland in 2022, and are amongst the people in IPO accommodation, were “fleeing wars”. 

So, given the information supplied, we know that at least 3,618 people out of a total of 11,142 people seeking asylum in 2022 are from countries where war is not taking place.

In fact, given those numbers we can say that, at a minimum, more than 30% of people who came to Ireland seeking asylum in 2022 thus far are from two countries that are not experiencing war.

It is to be expected that the Minister for Integration would be aware of the data released by the IPO.

Either Roderic O’Gorman is not aware of what is happening in his own department, or he is using the pretence that all those who come to Ireland claiming asylum are ‘fleeing wars’ to frame a narrative in a way that is misleading. 

Last year, Minister Roderic O’Gorman tweeted out in Albanian, Arabic, Somali, Urdu and Georgian that a new system would be in place for anyone who came to Ireland and claimed to be a refugee.

“Under this new system, people who are applying for protection will be helped to integrate into Ireland from day one, with health, housing, education, and employment supports at the core of the system,” the paper O’Gorman tweeted said.

Applicants would have told that own-door housing would be available after just 4 months.

We have seen an almost unprecedented rise in those claiming to be asylum seekers since then.

In 2016, the Irish Independent reported that Ireland refused asylum to 90% of those applying. Appealing a refusal can mean that the person who made the application remains in the country for years.

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