Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Ireland

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Ireland , 10 June 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3d04c150c.html [accessed 21 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2001, Ireland hosted about 9,500 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 8,200 asylum seekers awaiting first-instance decisions on pending applications, 369 persons with temporary protection, 934 persons granted refugee status during the year, and 52 refugees admitted from overseas.

Ireland received 10,325 asylum applications in 2001, a 5.6 percent decrease from the 10,938 applications received in 2000. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the largest number of applicants came from Nigeria (3,461), Romania (1,348), Moldova (549), Ukraine (376), Russian Federation (307), and Croatia (292).

Ireland granted refugee status to 456 individuals in the regular asylum procedure (first-instance decisions) during 2001, resulting in a 9 percent approval rate. Additionally, 478 individuals were granted asylum at the appeals stage during 2001. About 70 asylum seekers were granted temporary protection during the year.

Ireland denied 4,532 applications during 2001, while another 7,195 applications were deemed abandoned and administratively closed.

More than 600 unaccompanied child asylum seekers arrived in Ireland in 2001, twice the 300 who arrived in 2000.

Asylum Procedure

The asylum procedure is governed by the 1996 Refugee Act, which was amended in 1999. Asylum seekers apply for asylum at the Ministry of Justice, and are required to undergo a preliminary interview and complete a questionnaire, after which they are notified of their right to consult a lawyer and UNHCR. Asylum seekers over age 14 are fingerprinted; those who refuse may have their application denied as manifestly unfounded. Asylum seekers receive a temporary residence certificate.

The office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner adjudicates first-instance asylum applications, conducting a substantive interview with each asylum seeker. Interpreting facilities are provided where "necessary and possible." Rejected asylum seekers may lodge an appeal with the Refugee Appeals Tribunal within 15 working days. Appeals are considered based on written evidence unless asylum seekers request an oral hearing. Asylum seekers whose applications are deemed manifestly unfounded must submit appeals within 10 days.

The 1999 amendments also set out circumstances in which police or immigration officers may detain asylum applicants, including where claimants have not made "reasonable efforts" to establish their true identity or are in possession of forged identity documents. However, according to UNHCR, no asylum seekers were detained in Ireland under this measure during 2001.

Persons granted refugee status are issued a residence permit that is automatically renewable on a yearly basis, and receive the same rights and social benefits as Irish citizens. After five years of residence, refugees are eligible to apply for citizenship.

Under Ireland's two-track procedure, persons eligible for temporary protected status must first exhaust the procedure for UN Refugee Convention status before applying for temporary protection. UNHCR urged the government to adopt a single procedure in which a claimant whose asylum application was rejected would automatically be considered for temporary protection.

Asylum seekers are not permitted to work while awaiting a decision on their application, with the exception of asylum seekers who arrived before July 1999 and have been waiting at least 12 months for a final decision on their application.

Refugee advocates criticized the policy in 2001, calling for asylum seekers to be granted the right to work six months after filing their applications. In 2001, the government took about one year to make initial asylum decisions. The appeals process can last as long as two years.

In 2001, Ireland continued to transfer and receive asylum seekers under the Dublin Convention (see box, p. 190), which the government signed in September 1997.

Assistance and Accommodations

In April 2000, following a shortage of accommodations in the Dublin area, Ireland began a "direct provision" plan, in which the financial allowance for food and accommodation provided to asylum seekers was replaced by assigned housing – located throughout the country – and reduced social welfare payments. Under the new arrangements, asylum seekers are housed in reception centers for two weeks, then transferred to accommodations in some 50 towns and cities around the country. While in this dispersed accommodation, asylum seekers receive meals and a weekly welfare payment equivalent to $17 (19 euros). Asylum seekers were required to accept their assigned housing or risk losing the right to meals, accommodation, and pocket money.

While most Irish towns welcomed the asylum seekers, some local residents responded with hostility, and some asylum seekers reported that they were victimized by racially motivated violence and abuse during 2000. UNHCR reported that local resistance to the dispersal plan declined during 2001.

A November report by the Irish Refugee Council found that the dispersal plan has resulted in "extreme material deprivation" to asylum seekers with children, of whom 92 percent said that they needed to supplement the food allotments they received, though most could not afford to do so. Pregnant women and babies have been particularly affected, the report found. Overcrowded accommodations have resulted in psychological stress and health and safety risks to both parents and children, according to the report.

Restrictive Measures

Ireland employs an accelerated procedure for applications deemed "manifestly unfounded." A September report commissioned by the Irish Refugee Council criticized the accelerated procedure, charging that Irish authorities have fast-tracked asylum applicants from some countries with well-documented histories of human rights abuses. In some cases, according to the report, authorities relied on outdated country information when assessing applications, or failed to utilize country-of-origin information at all. The report criticized the lack of an oral hearing on appeal and called for a halting of the accelerated procedure.

Stricter document checks by Irish ferry employees at the French port of Cherbourg, instituted in November 2000, resulted in a significant drop in the number of asylum applications lodged at the Irish port of Rosselare during the first five months of 2001. Refugee advocates charged that new draft legislation on carrier sanctions would deny legitimate asylum seekers the chance to apply for asylum and result in an increase in human smuggling.

Readmission Agreements and Repatriation

Ireland signed agreements during 2001 with Nigeria and Poland for the readmission of unsuccessful asylum seekers. The government also signed an agreement with Romania for the readmission of Romanian nationals as well as third-country nationals who arrive in Ireland via Romania.

In November, the International Organization for Migration began a one-year, Dublin-based trial program to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of rejected asylum seekers. The program is initially offered only to Nigerians and Romanians, who together make up approximately half of all asylum seekers in Ireland.

Human Smuggling

A large number of the asylum seekers who arrive in Ireland are believed to pay smugglers for assistance. On December 8, the danger of employing human smugglers was highlighted by the discovery of eight dead asylum seekers, most believed to be Kurds from Turkey, in a shipping container that had recently arrived in Wexford. Five others survived the trip. The container had left Milan, Italy a week earlier.

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