The number of new asylum seekers entering into direction provision more than doubled last year, according to the Reception and Integration Agency. A total of 2,828 new asylum applicants were provided with accommodation — 1,687 more than in 2014.
The agency said 2015 was marked by a large increase in the number of single males seeking asylum and entering the direct provision system. Last year, the overall numbers housed in direct provision centres rose from 4,364 to 4,696 at a cost of €57m — up 4.7% on 2014.
Since the introduction of direct provision in 1999, over 55,870 have been accommodated by the agency at 35 centres around the country.
Agency official Eugene Banks said the latest annual figures hide the fact that in 2015 a significant number of people left State-provided accommodation as well as the 2,828 arrivals who moved into such centres.
“The majority of these new arrivals and in particular towards the latter half of the year, were single men,” said Mr Banks.
The agency said it had to source and open a new accommodation centre in Co Longford to cater for the influx of single males in 2015.
The agency figures also show almost a quarter of all residents in direct provision centres at the end of 2015 had been living in such accommodation for over five years.
A total of 1,158 individuals have been living under the system for at least five years including 683 who have been there longer than seven years.
However, the number of long-term stays has been declining with 38 months the average length of stay in 2015 down from 48 months in 2014. Around a quarter of all residents of direct provision centres at the end of 2015 were children with almost an equal number of boys and girls among the 1,172 underage residents.
The biggest centre is the former Butlin’s camp at Mosney, Co Meath which had 530 residents last December.
Several NGOs including the Irish Refugee Council have called for the ending of the system of direct provision which provides asylum applicants with accommodation on a full-board basis as they are not allowed to take up employment.
Residents are paid a weekly allowance of €19.10 (€9.60 for children).
Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald said the vast majority of residents in the direct provision system who are awaiting a protection decision are now living in such accommodation for less than three years.
Agency figures show residents made 14 written complaints about conditions in direct provision centres last year. Five were upheld by an independent adjudicator. The Government has agreed the ombudsman and the ombudsman for children should have their powers extended to include persons living in direct provision.
The agency said 3,276 applications for asylum were made in the Republic last year. That is the highest level since 2008 but well below the 10,000-plus number of refugees which arrived in Ireland each year at the turn of the century.
Pakistanis accounted for over 41% of all applicants (1,352) followed by Bangladesh (286) and Albania (214).
Of 1,552 applications completed last year by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, only 10% of cases or 152 individuals, received a positive recommendation.
The agency assisted with the voluntary repatriation of 243 destitute citizens from 13 of the newer EU member states last year at a cost of €59,633.
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