Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Ireland

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Ireland , 20 June 2001, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
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 2000, Ireland hosted about 7,700 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 6,972 asylum seekers awaiting decisions on pending applications, 141 persons with temporary protection, and 606 persons granted refugee status during the year.

Ireland received 10,938 asylum applications in 2000, a 42 percent increase from the 7,724 applications received in 1999. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the largest number of applicants came from Nigeria (3,404), Romania (2,384), the Czech Republic (403), Moldova (388), Congo-Kinshasa (358), Russia (327), and Algeria (296).

Ireland granted refugee status to 211 individuals in the regular asylum procedure (first-instance decisions) and 395 individuals at the appeals stage during 2000. Ireland denied 4,767 applications, of which 2,259 were determined to be manifestly unfounded. Consequently, the approval rate decreased from 14 percent in 1999 to 11 percent in 2000. Another 1,515 applications were deemed abandoned and administratively closed.

Asylum Procedure

Asylum seekers arriving in Dublin apply for asylum at the Ministry of Justice, which examines their applications in consultation with UNHCR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Those arriving at Shannon Airport in western Ireland's County Clare apply directly with immigration officers at the airport. After completing an asylum questionnaire, applicants receive an identity card that is valid for three to six months.

Asylum seekers are requested to attend an interview at the Asylum Division of the Department of Justice, Equality, and Law Reform. Interpreting facilities are provided where "necessary and possible." Those who have arrived since January 1999 often wait eight to nine months for an interview. Rejected asylum seekers may lodge an appeal to the Appeal Authority within 14 days of notification of the decision.

Asylum seekers who arrived before July 1999 and have been waiting for at least 12 months for a final decision on their applications are entitled to work in Ireland. Under amendments to the 1996 Refugee Act, asylum seekers with work entitlement no longer require a work permit.

In 2000, Ireland continued to transfer and receive asylum seekers under the Dublin Convention, which Ireland signed in September 1997 (see box, p. 198).

Legislative Changes

In July 1999, Ireland amended its Refugee Act of 1996. The new measures – introduced in the 1999 amendments together with a new Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act – came into effect on November 20, 2000. The new legislation provides for the appointment of a refugee application commissioner; the establishment of a refugee appeals tribunal; the development of a quality control system; and the creation of a refugee advisory board of relevant government departments and refugee interest groups. Under the amendments, the government takes fingerprints from all asylum applicants aged 14 years and older.

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

The Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 makes it an offense to organize or knowingly facilitate entry into Ireland of a person who is likely to be an "illegal immigrant" or who intends to seek asylum. UNHCR said that the act does not apply to persons who assist asylum seekers as part of such person's employment with a bona fide organization. However, refugee advocates criticized the measure.


In April, following a shortage of accommodations in the Dublin area in recent years, Ireland began to disperse asylum seekers around the country.

Under the new arrangements, asylum seekers who applied for asylum in Ireland before April 10 remained in private rented accommodations and continued to received Ireland's full social welfare payment of the equivalent of about $120 (75 pounds) per week. However, asylum seekers who arrived in Ireland after April 10 were housed in reception centers for two weeks, and then transferred to bed and breakfast, guesthouse, hotel, and "holiday village" accommodations in some 50 towns and cities around the country. A new government department, the Directorate of Asylum Support Services, became responsible for organizing the dispersal.

While in this dispersed accommodation, asylum seekers receive meals and a weekly welfare payment equivalent to $24 (15 pounds). Contrary to its 1999 plans, Ireland did not implement a voucher scheme to replace cash allowances for asylum seekers.

Many local Irish residents who received asylum seekers in their communities under the dispersal scheme complained that they had not been consulted about the arrangements. Others sought to keep asylum seekers out of their facilities. On April 25, a fire was deliberately started in a hotel in Clogheen, County Tipperary that was to be used to house up to 40 asylum seekers. Local residents then picketed the hotel in protest of the plans to accommodate asylum seekers there. Local residents in Rosslare Harbor picketed for eight months outside a hotel selected as dispersal accommodation for asylum seekers. In November, the government assigned the building as an assessment center for asylum seekers rather than overnight accommodation.

Asylum seekers reported being victimized by racially motivated violence and abuse during the year. In April, local residents hit a teenage Nigerian while shouting racist abuse. In June, a Nigerian asylum seeker who was sent to Waterford said he was beaten up in the town within days of his arrival. However, the vast majority of Irish towns welcomed dispersed asylum seekers.

The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism urged the government to review existing legislation to see whether it was sufficient to cope with racially motivated crime. The committee said that the Irish police's data collection system should be used urgently to categorize crimes that were racially motivated.

In response to the increase in racially motivated attacks, the government announced in September that it would ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and train Irish police in policing a multi-ethnic society. In October, the government allocated the equivalent of about $5.6 million (3.5 million pounds) to a three-year public awareness program to combat racism in Ireland.

In 2000, the government took between three and twenty months to make initial asylum decisions, and an additional one month to two years for appeals. The government agreed during the year to allocate additional resources, including recruiting 370 additional staff, to speed up the processing of applications.

Kosovo Albanians

In 2000, some 141 out of 1,000 Kosovo Albanians who were given temporary protection in Ireland as part of the Humanitarian Evacuation Program in 1999 remained in the country. According to UNHCR, 736 Kosovo Albanians voluntarily repatriated during the year, taking advantage of an Irish government "re-establishment grant" equivalent to $6,000. The government gave those who remained in Ireland an extension to stay in the country until June 2001.

Restrictive Measures

In May, Ireland signed a readmission agreement with Romania to fast-track the deportation of failed Romanian asylum applicants. Overall, Ireland increased the number of failed asylum seekers it deported from six people in 1999 to 187 in 2000.

In June, Ireland signed an agreement with the United Kingdom to exchange the fingerprint data of all asylum seekers aged 14 years or more. Because the vast majority of asylum seekers in Ireland have stayed in or transited through the United Kingdom, this agreement will enable Irish authorities more frequently to invoke the Dublin Convention.

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