Asylum seeker numbers rose 53% last year

Former EU commissioner, Peter Sutherland.

The number of foreign nationals applying for asylum last year increased 53%, although Ireland still has a comparatively low inflow rate of refugees within the EU.

Official EU figures show Ireland received just 0.3 applications for asylum per 1,000 inhabitants in 2014, compared to the EU average of 1.2.

A total of 1,450 applications for asylum were recorded in the Republic last year, up 505 on 2013 figures.

Despite the sharp rise, Ireland’s share of the total number of asylum seekers within the EU remained tiny at just 0.2%.

Pakistanis have overtaken Nigerians as the main country of origin of asylum seekers in Ireland — up from 95 in 2013 to 290 last year, accounting for 20% of all applicants. The number of asylum seekers from Nigeria still grew by 10 to 140, while with 100 applications, Albania replaced Zimbabwe as the third highest nationality.

Nevertheless, people from Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan were most successful in receiving a positive decision to their asylum application.

The Government gave favourable first instance decisions in 400 out of 1,060 cases last year — a 38% approval rate. Just 18% of applicants were successful in asylum decisions made in 2013.

The EU average is 45% but the rate varied from as high as 94% in Bulgaria and 77% in Sweden to as low as 11% in Croatia and 9% in Hungary.

Overall across the EU, a total of 626,065 applications from asylum seekers were recorded last year — an annual rise of 44%. The number has trebled since 2008.

One of the main reasons is the increase in refugees fleeing the war in Syria. Their numbers rose from 50,000 in 2013 to 123,000 last year, with around 60% of this figure seeking asylum in just two countries — Germany and Sweden.

There has also been a steady increase in the number of Afghans and Kosovars seeking asylum in EU countries in recent years, averaging around 40,000 each in 2014.

A third of all refugees sought asylum in Germany as the country dealt with 202,700 new cases. Other countries receiving a large number of applications for asylum included Sweden, Italy, France and Hungary. The number also more than doubled in Italy and Hungary.

Sweden has the highest rate of applications per head of population with 8.4 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants, a rate almost 30 times higher than Ireland. Portugal has the lowest rate at effectively zero.

In the UK, there was a 4% rise in the number of asylum seekers to almost 32,000, with the main countries of origin of applicants being Pakistan, Eritrea and Iran.

Former EU commissioner, Peter Sutherland, who is the special representative of the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon on migration, last week highlighted the disproportionate sharing of asylum seekers between EU member states. “These differences reflect much more than the different aspirations as to ultimate destination by the migrants themselves. They reflect different attitudes by receiving governments and their sense of obligation collectively.”

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