Saturday 25 October 2014

Cead mile failte – but not if you’re fleeing for your life

Published 29/06/2014 | 02:30

Syrian refugee girls applaud as they watch the final soccer match in a tournament of their own at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. Reuters
Syrian refugee girls applaud as they watch the final soccer match in a tournament of their own at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. Reuters

Ireland takes in the lowest number of refugees — including those escaping war-ravaged Syria — of all EU countries.

New figures released by the EU agency Eurostat reveal Ireland comes last when it comes to granting refugee status to asylum seekers. We rank far below even Malta, which has a population of just over 500,000,

Ireland opened its doors to just 40 Syrian refugees last year, out of a total of 205 who were granted asylum here. By contrast, Holland, with a population three times that of Ireland, accepted 10,620 refugees last year. Denmark, with a population similar to that of Ireland, accepted 3,360 refugees. Malta accepted 1,610 refugees last year.

Ireland’s record in stopping asylum seekers places it alongside countries such as Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Croatia.The crisis in Syria led to an increase in people seeking asylum in the EU last year, rising from 116,200 in 2012 to 135,700. Syrians accounted for one-quarter of all refugees granted asylum last year.

The report says: “The three largest groups of beneficiaries of protection status in the EU28 in 2013 remained citizens of Syria (35 800 persons or 26pc of the total number of persons granted protection status), Afghanistan (16,400 or 12pc) and Somalia (9 700 or 7pc).

“Of the 35,800 Syrians granted protection status in the EU28, more than 60pc were recorded in two member states: Sweden (12,000) and Germany (9,600). Of the 16,400 Afghans granted protection, more than three-quarters were registered in Germany (5,000), Austria and Sweden (both 2,300), Italy (1,600) and Belgium (1,500). Of the 9,700 Somalis, some 2,800 were granted protection status in the Netherlands, 1,700 in Sweden and 1,600 in Italy.

“In 2013, the highest number of persons granted protection status was registered in Sweden (26,400), followed by Germany (26,100), France (16,200), Italy (14,500) and the United Kingdom (13,400). All together, these five member states accounted for more than 70pc of all those granted protection status in the EU28.

“In total, of the 135,700 persons who were granted protection status in 2013,

64,500 persons were granted refugee status (47pc of all positive decisions), 50,900 subsidiary protection (37pc) and 20,400 authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons (15pc).”

About 40pc of people seeking asylum in the EU last year were granted ‘first instance’ acceptance, while Ireland allowed only 150 (55 others received interim permission to remain here) out of 840 applicants asylum status, or around 18pc, again putting this country at the bottom of the league along with the Baltic and some south-eastern European states.

The report says the highest rates of recognition for first instance decisions were recorded in Bulgaria (87pc), Malta (84pc), Romania (64pc), Italy and the Netherlands (both 61pc), while those for final decisions on appeal were registered in Bulgaria (93pc), Italy (78pc), Finland (77pc), Romania (60pc) and the Netherlands (57pc).

It has been government policy here for almost a decade to oppose almost all asylum applications, leading to a drop from around 10,000 at the height of the economic boom to a trickle of only a few hundred a year.

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