Leo Varadkar says Georgia and Albania driving rise in asylum-seeker numbers

Leo Varadkar says Georgia and Albania driving rise in asylum-seeker numbers

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said two eastern European countries are the "big drivers" behind a rise in asylum seekers coming to Ireland.

Mr Varadkar said that Georgian and Albanian migrants are travelling to Ireland with fake documents.

While saying there had been a 60% rise in asylum seekers here in recent years, the Taoiseach stressed the country was not being "flooded" and there were still far fewer asylum seekers coming here than was the case 15 or 20 years ago.

A total of 460 Albanian nationals sought refugee status in the Republic in 2018, representing 13% of all applicants — just ahead of 450 from Georgia (12%) and 330 from Syria (9%). There are about 6,000 people currently at various stages of the asylum-seeking process here.

In an interview in today's Sunday Independent, Mr Varadkar said controls were being stepped up at airports to stop illegal entry and claimed the measures were having an effect.

He added: “There are lots of ways to enter Ireland legally with a visa or work permit so we cannot tolerate illegal entry.”

His comments come as protests continue in Achill in Co Mayo against plans for a direct provision centre on the island.

Last night the Archbishop of Tuam called for full transparency from the state over the plans. He also stressed that, in the context of our improved circumstances, we have a responsibility to share with those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

The latest protests in Mayo follow the shelving of similar plans for centres in Ougherterard in Galway and Ballinamore in Leitrim after local opposition in recent months.

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