More than 600 children under age of four living in direct provision

Posters from a protest at a direct provision centre in Cork last month.

More than 600 children under the age of four are living in the country's asylum seeker system amid ongoing fears over the treatment of people in such centres.

The Department of Justice confirmed the figures during a meeting in which officials also revealed 142 people have been in the asylum system for more than seven years.

Department secretary general Aidan O'Driscoll told the Dáil's public accounts committee that a total of 1,630 children of all ages are currently living in direct provision.

The figure includes a total of 673 children under the age of four, with Mr O'Driscoll added that it is "obvious" this is the case when someone visits a centre.

The Department secretary general separately said a total of 6,093 people are currently living in the asylum system, including:

  • 289 waiting in the system up to four years
  • 146 waiting between four and five years
  • 65 waiting between five and six years
  • 142 waiting for more than seven years
  • Mr O'Driscoll told Catherine Connolly TD the State pays for 38 asylum centres across the country, including 31 that are "commercially" operated.

    He said of the total number of people affected, 729 have already been given "received status" to leave the system but are unable to do so for various reasons, including the possibility that some of their family members remain in the system.

    Asked how much the immigration/asylum system is costing, Mr O Driscoll told Ms Connolly it cost €67m in 2017, €77m in 2018 and that he expects the system to cost "up and around €95-100m this year, it would be my guess".

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