Migrant crisis growing here as asylum seekers double in 2015
Government worried about the surge of economic immigrants arriving here from the UK via Belfast
A new wave of economic immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh and a smaller number from Albania are targeting Ireland to make a new life.
The number of people seeking asylum in Ireland has more than doubled during the first five months of this year over the same period last year and is now almost on par with the total number of new applications made last year.
By the end of May, 1,147 new asylum applications were made compared to 488 for the same period in 2014.
The Office of the Refugee Commissioner (ORAC) confirmed the number of new applications lodged in the first six months of 2015 has nearly met the total figure for all of 2014.
The overwhelming majority of applications this year were made by Pakistani nationals, who lodged a record 529 applications, followed by applicants from Bangladesh (90) and Albania (36).
The surge in applications from Pakistanis, who made just 91 applications in 2013, prompted Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last month to order urgent talks between the UK's Home Office and immigration officials here over what officials say is a blatant abuse of the common travel area between Ireland and the UK. Immigration officials say UK-based Pakistanis were arriving in Ireland from the UK where they had typically entered on visas that were due to expire.
But rather than risk deportation, they are entering the Republic via Northern Ireland and travelling down by bus or train and then claiming asylum here.
The Justice Minister has sought enhanced co-operation with the UK authorities and admitted to cabinet colleagues that the Government is increasingly concerned about pressure on resources.
The Garda National Immigration Bureau has also launched an investigation after eight passengers on board Ethiopian Airlines flight ET50 from Addis Ababa to Dublin claimed asylum at the airport during the inaugural flight last Saturday.
Meanwhile, Amir Davis, a director of the Pakistan Welfare and Cultural Association of Ireland, said Pakistanis living in Ireland are also becoming concerned about the influx of their countrymen into Ireland.
The clampdown by UK immigration officials on people overstaying visitor visas is driving the recent surge of asylum applications here, he said.
"Since the clampdown in the UK, Ireland is seen as a place they can easily go. They are still trying to live a better life (here) and get permanent residency status," he said.
The new Irish applicants are typically young males who entered the UK on student visas that are about to expire and who do not want to go home. They see Ireland as the next best option.
A number of tactics have been used to obtain residency status in Britain, including sham marriages, he said.
But now that immigration officials in the UK have moved to tackle the scams, illegal immigrants are fleeing to Ireland.
Even though their applications for asylum will probably be rejected, many are hoping that they can establish roots here, which they believe will bolster their cases, he said.
"The perceived outcome is they'll be able to stay here because in the UK the cases are being processed faster but here it takes longer," he said.
However, he said there is little sympathy within the Pakistani-Irish community for people who are simply economic migrants seeking a better standard of living.
"For people like us who are totally legal, we feel they're spoiling the genuine cases who genuinely need asylum or have a visa. They're bringing [us] a bad name," he said.
But Sue Conlon, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, said it's not fair to assume that the recent surge in asylum seekers are economic migrants seeking a better life.
"This is going to be a mixed group. But we do need a reformed system with a clear designation for migrants," she said.
Jane-Ann McKenna, director of Medecins sans Frontieres in Ireland is calling for "a radical rethink of migration policy" following the chaotic scenes at the French port of Calais last week in which hundreds of desperate migrants were attempting to enter the UK by stowing away on queuing lorries bound for Dover during a port strike.