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False claims help bill for asylum seekers to hit €300m

The cost of dealing with asylum seekers will reach €300m this year, with Irish lawyers making a killing from an estimated 1,200 judicial reviews of deportation cases by people who have entered the country illegally.

Each of the reviews is likely to cost the State at least €30,000 to €50,000 and some €20m is being set aside to cover legal costs to the Exchequer, as all are on legal aid.

It has also emerged that of the 3,985 applications for asylum made last year 502 applications for asylum were made in the name of children under the age of three. These are nearly all children born to asylum seekers living here and who have already been turned down for asylum. In some of these cases it is the second or third child in the same family to make the application.

Documents seen by the Sunday Independent also show how a large number of asylum applicants are arriving here by air but then claiming they have no passport or travel documents.

More than 3,400, or 85 per cent of those who claimed asylum here last year, appeared in the country and then made their application for asylum directly at the Office of Refugee Application Commissioner in Mount Street, Dublin.

The Government currently has legislation before the Dail seeking to reduce the time in which asylum seekers can use the judicial review system to stay in Ireland, which usually extends their stay here for a year or a year and a half, often while receiving benefits.

The documents also give details of social welfare and other scams being operated by illegal immigrants.

Last year gardai with the Garda National Bureau of Investigation, working with UK Immigration, detected a large number of frauds being perpetrated on the social welfare system here, many by illegal immigrants who were also claiming benefits in Britain and Northern Ireland.

Some were travelling back and forward to countries, particularly Nigeria, while keeping up benefit frauds here and in Britain. These include:

l A Nigerian man registered in this State with his wife and children on 'Irish-born Child' or (IBC) status who was claiming EU Treaty rights in the UK based on a bigamous marriage to a Belgian woman living in England. He claimed that he married the Belgian national in order to stay in the UK. His Nigerian wife here was found to be claiming benefits on his behalf as well as herself and children.

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l A Nigerian man detained in Belfast who was found to be officially living in the Republic with his wife and Irish-born children. "On searching his luggage it transpired that this person is residing back in Nigeria where he runs his own legal practice. He admitted that he earns approximately $8,000 per month as a result of this practice," the Garda report states. His wife, who has rights to remain here until 2010 because of the Irish-born children, has been claiming benefits for both him, herself and children.

l Another Nigerian man stopped in the George Best Airport, Belfast, in March this year where he was met by another Nigerian man. He claimed to own a successful haulage business in Nigeria. A search of his suitcase uncovered documents showing he had been claiming benefits here for two years.

l A Brazilian woman who was also detained at the airport in Belfast in February this year had previously been detained in January 2007. "By her own admission she operates as a prostitute and travels through Belfast to enter this State as she had previously been refused entry to the State at Dublin Airport. She has conditions in the UK based on marriage to a British national," the report states.

l A Somali man also stopped in Belfast on April 28 last year was found to be carrying a large suitcase full of the drug 'quat', a type of natural amphetamine much used by Somalis but not illegal in the UK or here. He was found to have an address in Dublin and also to be in receipt of welfare payments.

An overview of the asylum seeker situation estimated that 90 per cent of claims are bogus; that many are seeking asylum simultaneously in Britain and Ireland while travelling back and forth to their home countries; that Northern Ireland is the most frequent route into and out of the Republic because of the absence of any Border checks; and that people who fail to gain asylum status immediately move from one jurisdiction to the other.

The 'top five countries' of origin of asylum seekers last year are: Nigeria, with 1,028 or 25 per cent of the total; Iraq, with 285 or 7.2 per cent; China, with 259 or 6.5 per cent; Pakistan, with 185 or 4.6 per cent; and Georgia, with 174 or 4.4 per cent.

A total of 468, or 11.7 per cent, of those who claimed asylum here last year were found, under the new pan-European fingerprinting EURODAC system for applicants, to have already applied for asylum in other EU countries.

More than half of those who applied for asylum here claimed to have arrived in Ireland without any documents.

Gardai said that the amount of fraud and false claims being made is making life even more difficult for the genuine asylum seekers who have escaped tyrannical regimes or countries where they face persecution for reasons ranging from religious and non-religious beliefs to political association or ethnicity.

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