Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2017, 12:58 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Ireland

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Ireland , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 13 December 2017]
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 2002, Ireland hosted more than 6,500 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included some 4,500 asylum seekers with pending applications, 2,000 persons granted refugee status during the year (1,100 on appeal and 900 in the first instance), and 23 refugees admitted from overseas.

Ireland received 11,600 asylum applications in 2002, about 12 percent more than in 2001. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the largest numbers of applicants came from Nigeria (4,100), Romania (1,700), Moldova (500), Zimbabwe (360), and Ukraine (350).

Ireland granted refugee status at a rate of 13 percent in initial decisions, up from 9 percent in 2001. Additionally, 1,100 individuals were granted on appeal. Over 100 asylum seekers were granted temporary protection during the year.

Ireland rejected around 6,000 applications during 2002, while another 8,200 applications were deemed abandoned and administratively closed following failure to attend a second interview.

Around 300 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Ireland in 2002, less than half the number in 2001.

Asylum Procedure

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

The office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner adjudicates the asylum applications, conducting a second, substantive interview with each asylum seeker. The government provides interpreters where it deems them necessary and possible. Rejected asylum seekers may appeal with the Refugee Appeals Tribunal within 15 working days based on written evidence, unless they request a hearing. Ireland employs an accelerated procedure for applications deemed manifestly unfounded, allowing only ten days to appeal. In 2002, around 100 applications were rejected as manifestly unfounded.

Police or immigration officers may detain asylum applicants with fraudulent documents, or who are not deemed to have made reasonable efforts to establish their identities. According to UNHCR, no asylum seekers have been detained in Ireland under this measure. However, in July, 25 Indian nationals who refused to re-embark their plane during a stopover at Ireland's Limerick Airport were detained on national security or public order grounds. UNHCR reported that the group applied for asylum while detained, but withdrew their applications before interview and consented to deportation.

Temporary Protection

After exhausting the procedure for refugee status, asylum seekers may apply for "temporary protection." The criteria for this status are either undefined "humanitarian considerations" or non-protection factors such as employment prospects, family ties, domestic circumstances, and connections with Ireland. The granting of temporary protection is discretionary and there is no appeal mechanism against a refusal. UNHCR recommended that temporary protection be considered automatically, but draft immigration legislation prepared in 2002 did not contain such a provision.

Asylum seekers may not work while awaiting a decision on their application, with the exception of those who arrived before July 1999 and have been waiting at least 12 months for a final decision. The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) called for asylum seekers to be allowed to work six months after application. However, in 2002, Ireland increased its capacity to make status determinations and reduced the backlog of pending applications by 40 percent on the previous year, despite the increase in applications. According to UNHCR, most asylum seekers received initial decisions within six months during 2002.

In 2002, Ireland removed 191 applicants under the Dublin Convention. No figures were available on the number of applicants transferred to Ireland under the convention during the year, but UNHCR believed it to be "considerably higher" than the number removed. (See "Dublin Convention" box, p. 176.)

Persons granted refugee status are issued a residence permit automatically renewable on a yearly basis and receive the same rights and benefits as citizens. After three years of continuous residence, refugees may apply for citizenship. Officials may take into account the period spent as an asylum seeker in calculating length of residence. During 2002, around 300 refugees were granted citizenship in Ireland.

Children born in Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship and their non-citizen parents have been allowed to remain in Ireland. The number of allowed asylum seekers staying in Ireland through their Irish-born children increased from 900 in 2000 to 4,000 in 2002. In April, however, the High Court ruled that asylum seekers were not entitled to remain in Ireland merely on that basis. The judge said that in considering deportation orders for such people, immigration officials should take into account the length of the parents' stay in Ireland, the age of the child, and his or her ability to adapt to the parents home country.

(In January 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision.)

New Legislation

The Irish Senate debated a new Immigration Bill in December, which is likely to be enacted in 2003. The draft law introduces carrier liability fines equivalent to $2,700 (3,000 Euros) and denies public assistance to asylum seekers who do not apply immediately on arrival. The bill also provides for resettling refugees in Ireland through UNHCR, adds a new asylum determination category of "withdrawn" for asylum seekers who withdraw their applications or fail to comply with procedural requirements, and allows the Refugee Appeal Tribunal to rank cases according to the grounds and date of applications, and the country of origin, family relationships, and ages of applicants in order to speed up the process. The IRC said that carrier sanctions would deny legitimate asylum seekers the chance to apply and would cause more smuggling, and that denying public assistance would cause destitution.

Assistance and Accommodation

Since 2000, the government has housed asylum seekers in reception centers for two weeks and then transferred them to shelters in some 50 towns and cities around the country where they receive meals and the equivalents of $17 (19.50 Euros) per adult and $8.50 (9.75 Euros) per child weekly. Asylum seekers may live elsewhere but will not receive meals or cash if they do. Parents may claim additional payments for each of their children, although the government announced during the year its intention to review eligibility for this payment.

Asylum seekers receive legal advice on their claims for a nominal fee from the government-funded Refugee Legal Service.

In a 2001 report, the IRC found that the dispersal plan resulted in "extreme material deprivation" to asylum seekers with children, 92 percent of whom said that they needed more food than they received, though most could not afford it. According to the IRC, the inadequate food particularly affected pregnant women and babies, and overcrowded accommodations resulted in psychological stress and health and safety risks to both parents and children.

Visa Requirements, Readmission Agreements, and Repatriation

During 2002, Ireland imposed entry visa requirements on Zimbabweans following a sharp rise in the number of asylum applications from Zimbabwean nationals during the year. The government had readmission agreements with Poland and Romania, and signed more agreements with Nigeria and Bulgaria during 2002, due to be ratified in 2003.

In November 2001, the International Organization for Migration began a one-year trial program in Dublin to facilitate voluntary repatriation of rejected asylum seekers. During the year, 12 asylum seekers volunteered under the program, although not all had departed at year's end.

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