Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has described as "grossly misleading" a correlation between the lives endured by residents of the Magdalene laundries and the thousands of asylum seekers currently living in direct provision centres.
Mr Shatter was responding to comments by Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly that Taoiseach Enda Kenny may one day have to issue an apology to asylum seekers along the lines of the one he offered to survivors of Magdalene laundries.
In a written Dáil response, Mr Shatter said: "I do not accept the attempted correlation between the residents of direct provision accommodation centres and past residents of industrial schools or Magdalene laundries.
He said all EU member states operate systems for dealing with asylum seekers. "In reality, the system in this State is at least on a par and often significantly better than that in operation in many other member states. In the circumstances, it is grossly misleading to characterise our treatment of asylum seekers as being akin to that meted out to subjects of abuse who had no protection of the law or relevant State bodies."
Mr Shatter confirmed that there are currently 4,116 residents in direct provision centres across the country.
The vast majority of the asylum seekers are from the developing nations, however, new figures provided by Mr Shatter confirm there are citizens from economic powerhouses, the United States, Germany and China being accommodated at the centres.
The country with the largest number living in direct provision is Nigeria (1,211) followed by the Democratic Republic of The Congo (415) and Pakistan (309).
Germany and US each have one person living in direct provision with nine from China with an additional five being "stateless".
Mr Shatter confirmed the Reception Integration Agency (RIA) has spent €25.75 million in the six months to the end of June with the full year estimate at €57.5m. This compares with the €62.3m spend in 2012.
The figures show that 68% or 3,129 of the 4,616 asylum seekers are living in direct provision three years or more and that includes 600 living in the direct provision for seven years or more.
Mr Shatter said: "I accept that the direct provision system is not ideal and many residents spend too long there. But it is a system which facilitates the State providing a roof over the heads of those seeking protection or the right to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds or other reasons.
"It allows the State to do it in a manner that facilitates resources being used economically in circumstances where the State is in financial difficulty.
Mr Shatter added: "There is no question but that the asylum system is slow, fragmented and is in need of reform and I am determined to see this reform through. For me, the length of time spent in the Direct Provision system, rather than the quality of provision within the system itself, is the real issue and I am committed to remedying that."