More than 3,000 people arrived in Ireland with no identification documents despite presenting them at their point of departure, the Dáil has heard.
Amid growing concern about the influx of refugees from Ukraine and other countries, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he has no issue with a special committee on migration being created to discuss the challenges.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath said the State could not sustain the high number of applications for asylum, following calls from Clare TD Cathal Crowe for a cap on the numbers coming here.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Mr McGrath referenced the numbers of non-Ukrainian applications for asylum, including from Georgia, from “where 2,300 applicants had come in the first 10 months of this year”, a 10-fold increase on last year’s figures.
There has been a staggering 2,000% increase in asylum applications from Algeria, increasing from less than 100 last year to 1,318 since January this year, Mr McGrath said. “And there are similar figures from Somalia, Nigeria, and Albania,” he said.
Querying how the State can sustain such an influx of people, especially during an unprecedented housing and healthcare crisis, Mr McGrath said: “Shockingly 3,254 persons have arrived in the State, undocumented in the first eight months of this year,” he said, claiming they presented documentation at their point of departure.
This matter was “causing strife and will cause more strife and angst” and needed to be addressed, he added, citing a senior medical consultant in Co. Tipperary who called for a “pause” in immigration.
In response, the Taoiseach said the war in Ukraine certainly does create huge pressure on our services. “But in my view, in a wartime situation like this, I don’t think there’s a choice here. And I think we have to work with other European countries in respect of this,” he said.
On international protection applications, he acknowledged the significantly increased numbers.
“I have no issue with a committee being formed, if that’s the desire of the House, to get more into the details on the specifics. Maybe that’s something that can be worked on.”
Mr Martin rejected Mr McGrath’s claim that he was “obsessed with Ukraine” and told him: “I’m not obsessed with anything, but there is a reality of a war that’s on our doorsteps”.
The Taoiseach pointed out that there are 17,518 people accommodated through the international protection system. Before the Covid pandemic, it averaged 3,500 applications annually, but it had “increased significantly”.