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Ireland’s migration challenge: explained in seven graphs

Migration has become one of the most important issues in Ireland.

A diplomatic row with the UK this week over asylum seekers has brought the issue to the center of political debate.

So how many people have come to Ireland recently and what happens when they get here?

In line with trends across Europe, the number of people coming to the State to request asylum has skyrocketed in recent years to reach record levels.

There was a 415 percent increase in the number of applications in 2022 compared to 2021, and a 186 percent increase compared to 2019.

In 2022, 13,651 applications for international protection were submitted, while in 2023, 13,277 applications were submitted.

In recent months there has been a further increase in asylum applications and arrivals. Justice Minister Helen McEntee said part of this increase was due to people avoiding the UK because of Rwanda’s deportation policy.

In March of this year, 1,821 asylum applications were submitted, compared to 858 in March 2023.

Between January and the end of April of this year, almost 6,500 people arrived in the Republic, compared to about 3,100 during the same period in 2023.

Around 35 per cent of these arrivals are men who traveled alone, but the figures also include children, couples, women and single-parent families.

More than 460 children arrived in April, according to weekly updates from the International Protection Office.

All of this has put pressure on the already strained accommodation system for international protection applicants.

The system is managed by International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS), part of the Department of Integration. IPAS manages reception centres, emergency accommodation, the Citywest Transit Hub and tented accommodation.

The number of people living in the IPAS system has more than tripled since 2021, when it housed around 7,000 people. Now almost 30,000 people are in state-provided shelters.

This sharp increase amid the current housing crisis led the Government to say last year that it could no longer provide accommodation to all asylum seekers. In practice, this means that childless men do not have priority for accommodation.

Some of these men ended up living on the streets. This week, more than 200 asylum seekers who had been living in tents outside the International Protection Office in Dublin were moved from the area to facilities in Citywest and Crooksling in Co Dublin.

The country has also seen an increase in the number of arson attacks on buildings rumored to or intended to provide accommodation for people seeking international protection.

Emergency reception and housing centers are located in all parts of the state, and asylum seekers live in every county.

Galway city is the local authority with the most asylum seekers relative to its population, around 1.5 per cent, followed by Donegal (1.2 per cent). Kilkenny has the lowest number of asylum seekers housed as a percentage of its population (0.1 per cent).

On the contrary, the number of weekly arrivals from Ukraine has decreased significantly since the beginning of this year.

It comes after the Government cut benefits for newly arrived Ukrainian refugees, from €220 to €38.80 per week, the same amount asylum seekers receive.

New arrivals from Ukraine also now have a 90-day limit on how long they can be housed in the state.

More than 100,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Ireland since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022.

Many of them have settled in rural and western areas of the country. Kerry, Leitrim, Donegal and Clare are the counties with the highest proportion of Ukrainian refugees relative to the population.

According to Central Statistics Office data based on PPSN records, there are 12 Ukrainian refugees for every 100 residents in Ennistymon, Co Clare.

Despite the recent tension over migration, Taoiseach Simon Harris said on Friday that “immigration is a good thing” but Irish people “want to know that the rules are enforced”.

“Ireland is a better place for the many people who have come and made Ireland their home,” Harris said. “They are working in hospitals, in our hospitality sector and in many sectors of the economy.

“So migration and immigration is a good thing and I think it’s really important that we say that and not sow that ground or create a void for others to exploit.

“That said, I think people in Ireland, and I imagine people in most countries, want to know that there are rules, they want to know that the rules are applied, they want to know that the system is fair, that it is firm, that helps those who are entitled to receive help.

“That if someone comes to our country and goes through a processing system and has no right to be there, that person is asked to leave in the first instance and is forced to leave if they don’t.”