Numbers seeking asylum plunge for a second year
Asylum applications here have dropped dramatically for the second successive year.
They are expected to plummet again this year as tough new measures are being adopted to curb sham marriages.
The number of applications has now reached half of the 2008 level and has fallen continuously since a peak of 11,634 in 2002.
Statistics published yesterday by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern showed a total of 1,939 asylum applications last year, down by 28pc on the corresponding figure of 2,689 in 2009.
The figure has now fallen back to a level seen previously in the mid-1990s and underlines the success of a spate of measures adopted by the authorities to deal with bogus refugees.
Nine out of every 10 applications are found to be false and measures such as the removal of the automatic right of the parents of Irish-born children to remain here are now making a significant impact on the figures.
Mr Ahern said last night he was concerned at the fact that almost 1,900 applications from non-EU nationals for residency rights were based on marriage to an EU national in Ireland.
The largest non-EU nationality group making those applications were from Pakistan, which accounted for almost 20pc of all claims in that category.
Mr Ahern said it was also very significant that almost two- thirds of the Pakistani applications involved a partner from the Baltic states.
"The high incidence of such marriages, several involving asylum seekers, is an ongoing concern that my officials, in co-operation with their colleagues in other interested EU states, continue to monitor,"he added.
Immigration officials are now set to look at the deployment of biometric technology as part of an examination of visa applications from Pakistan to determine the true identity of the claimants.
Applicants from Pakistan will be required to include biometric details such as fingerprints, which will be stored electronically and then cross-checked on the EU database to establish if the identity claimed is genuine.
At the moment this measure is enforced only against applicants from Nigeria.
Mr Ahern said this technology had proven to be very effective in tackling abuse in the asylum, immigration and visa areas.
For where a sham marriage is suspected, the biometric measure will be backed up by detailed interviews with the garda national immigration bureau and tighter inspections by civil registrars.
The top five source nationalities for applications in 2010 were Nigeria at 20pc, followed by China, 11.8pc; Pakistan, 10.3pc; Democratic Republic of Congo, 3.6pc; and Afghanistan, 3.6pc.
Over the past decade Nigerians have consistently topped the league of source nationalities, reaching a peak of almost 40pc of all applications in 2003.
The new figures also disclosed that 247 deportations of failed asylum seekers to non- EU countries were carried out last year, an increase of 4pc on 2009. The enforcement rate for deportation orders is only 30pc as many of those served with orders subsequently disappear into the black economy or leave the country before they are arrested.