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Asylum claims down to mid-1990s levels

Asylum applications are now at levels not seen since the mid-1990s after numbers dropped by more than a quarter last year.

Some 1,939 asylum pleas were made, with the majority from Nigeria, followed by China and Pakistan.

Figures from the Department of Justice show numbers have been dropping every year since the peak of 11,634 in 2002.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern attributed the decline to a clampdown in bogus applications.

"I welcome the progress that continues to be made in the processing of asylum applications, particularly in light of the considerable challenge involved in this regard down the years," Mr Ahern said.

"The reduction in asylum applications in Ireland is a reflection of the ongoing work within the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service including the asylum agencies to combat abuse while at the same time ensuring fairness and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of procedures in this area."

There were 1,266 male and 673 female asylum applications in 2010, compared to 1,759 and 931 respectively in 2009 - down 27.9pc.

The top five nationalities last year were Nigeria (20.0pc), followed by China (11.8pc), Pakistan (10.3pc), Democratic Republic of Congo (3.6pc) and Afghanistan (3.6pc).

Nigeria has topped the list for the past 10 years.

There were 247 deportation orders for unsuccessful asylum seekers to non-EU countries made in 2010, up 4pc on 2009.

There were also almost 1,900 applications by non-EU nationals for residence based on marriage to an EU citizen in Ireland, with nearly a fifth from Pakistani nationals.

The Department raised fears about the possibility of sham marriages as almost two-thirds of the applications from Pakistanis involved an EU partner from a Baltic state.

PA Media