Asylum applicants increase by 129pc since start of year
There has been a 129pc increase in the numbers of people seeking asylum in Ireland since the start of the year, the Irish Independent can reveal.
With a huge increase in the numbers of refugees attempting to gain entry into Europe from North Africa in the past two years, Ireland, along with other EU countries, is experiencing a spike in the numbers arriving here.
The figures from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald show that in January and February of this year, 416 applications were recorded. This compares with 181 during the same period last year.
Ms Fitzgerald said: "The rate of increase in the number of applications is accelerating to date this year."
She added: "In that regard, it should be noted that there were 1,448 applications for asylum in 2014 which represents an increase of 53pc on the previous year."
The Irish Refugee Council said there is not yet any conclusive evidence as to why such a large increase in numbers arriving here seeking asylum has happened.
Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, speaking to the Irish Independent said that there is sufficient capacity in the system to cope with the increase in those coming here once the Government dealt with those who have been languishing in direct provision centres for years.
"If the Government cleared the numbers in direct provisions for a long time, there is capacity there to facilitate such spikes in new arrivals," she said.
The spike in applications comes amid ongoing controversy around the Government's direct provision system.
Last year, the direct provision system cost €53m, with 4,364 asylum seekers in direct provision accommodation.
A firm that runs a controversial direct provision centre for asylum seekers in Limerick was one of three contractors to receive more than €5m each of taxpayers' money last year.
Last August, residents at Mount Trenchard in Foynes protested at living conditions at the base and demanded its closure.
Ms Fitzgerald later establishing a working group to examine direct provision, which is the State's way of looking after asylum seekers. Figures from the Department of Justice revealed that the contractor, Alan Hyde, who heads up the Barlow Properties group, last year received €5.15m to operate five centres for 480 asylum seekers.