Ireland’s seemingly low rate of granting asylum is clearly a smokescreen

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“When I arrived here it felt such a big relief. I felt ‘I’m fine, I’m safe’. All I knew was that I was leaving my country; I did not know what lay ahead for me,” Khaled says.

For the Sudanese national, however, it would take almost six years in the Direct Provision system to secure asylum in Ireland. His application was refused at first instance, when assessed by the Government’s international protection office, and was also rejected when considered by an appeals tribunal.

Today, the 35-year-old is happily settled and working as a fitness instructor in Cork city. He is hoping that his son, whom he hasn’t seen since for nine years, will be able to join him under the family reunification programme.

Khaled is one of almost 16,000 people who sought asylum in Ireland between 2008 and 2016. He is also among the almost nine in 10 applicants refused asylum at first instance during this period, according to an analysis carried out by Belfast-based website The Detail.

The special investigation, supported by the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund and Tony Ryan Trust, examined the European Commission’s database, Eurostat, to reveal that Ireland had the second-lowest rate of granting asylum (13 per cent) across the EU and compared poorly to the EU average of 44 per cent between 2008 and 2016.

Asylum grant or recognition rates are calculated based on the grant or refusal of asylum at first instance when applications are decided by the Government’s international protection office. The Eurostat database does not indicate how many applicants, such as Khaled, go on to secure asylum following judicial review proceedings in the High Court or Supreme Court.

Eurostat data shows that Irish authorities granted asylum to 1,990 applicants at first instance between 2008 and 2016. The majority were granted refugee status (70 per cent) because of a serious threat to their life or freedom, as defined under the Geneva Convention. The remaining 30 per cent were granted subsidiary protection because of a risk of serious harm if they were returned home.

More than half of those granted asylum came from Iraq (260), Syria (255), Afghanistan (175), Somalia (135), Pakistan (120), Iran (110) and Sudan (110).

Of the 13,710 applicants refused asylum, the highest numbers came from Nigeria (2,810), Pakistan (1,685), the Democratic Republic of Congo (685), Zimbabwe (620), Albania (520) and South Africa (425).

While yearly asylum grant rates show some improvement since 2014, Ireland’s more recent rate remains significantly lower than the EU average – in 2016 the EU average rose to 61 per cent, Ireland stood at 23 per cent.

The spokesperson added: “In Ireland the five leading applicant countries for 2017 were Georgia, Albania, Pakistan, Nigeria and Zimbabwe which are not acknowledged conflict zones with high grant rates.”

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The Islamist terrorism threat in Ireland

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In early January, a brutal series of stabbings in the town of Dundalk sparked a discussion across Ireland about the country’s preparedness in the face of international terrorism.

On 3 January, news reports from the small town of Dundalk in County Louth emerged of an 18-year-old foreign national who had stabbed three individuals, killing one and badly injuring two. While the motive of the attack has yet to be established, in the days following the incident, many in the Irish media were asking how was it possible that almost no information existed concerning the perpetrator’s nationality, his immigration status or about when he entered the Irish Republic.

The assault – which some suggested could be the country’s first “lone wolf” attack – also reinvigorated a debate about security and Ireland’s preparedness that began months earlier following the revelations that the Irish government had granted residency to Rachid Redouane who would later take part in the attack on London’s Borough market in June 2017. This is despite the UK government’s decision to reject his asylum application.

Terror related activities linked to radical Islam are a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland, which has developed considerably since 2011. Approximately forty Irish citizens are estimated to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight against coalition forces. They include Muslim converts such as Terence Edward Kelly (also known as Khalid Kelly), who went to Syria in 2016 but later died in Mosul after driving a vehicle carrying an improvised explosive device. As with other European nations, Ireland is now wondering what security threats may lay in store, as its own battle-hardened citizens return home.

While the Irish Republic must contend with threats brewing abroad, within its borders, cases of terror-related offences have hit the headlines. In late September 2017, in the west of Ireland, a suspected ISIS cell of eight, headed by two Chechen brothers was put under surveillance for suspicions they were undertaking ‘dummy runs’ using the local postal service to send items to the Middle East, as well as working to fundraise and make financial transfers to support extremist organizations. Months earlier, after an 18-month police investigation, in the southern town of Waterford, a couple in their twenties was arrested for helping to fundraise in support of terrorist activity.


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African couple to face trial accused of genital mutilation of their daughter at their south Dublin home

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A couple have been sent forward for trial accused of genital mutilation of their daughter at their home in Dublin.

The man, 35, and the woman, 26, faced their second hearing when they appeared before Judge Paula Murphy at Dublin District Court.

They had been charged in December and were then remanded on bail to appear again today when they were served with books of evidence in court by Det Sergeant Danny Kelly.

The couple, who are from an east African country, are accused of genital mutilation of the girl at their home in a south Dublin suburb on Sept. 16, 2016 and another charge under the Children’s Act for allowing a child to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected causing unnecessary suffering or injury.

The offence of genital mutilation, on conviction, can carry a sentence of up to 14 years. The man and woman, who did not address the court today, cannot be named for legal reasons.

Judge Paula Murphy noted from state solicitor Jonathan Antoniotti that there were reporting restrictions to protect the child’s identity and she said they remained in place for the duration of the proceedings.

The age of the child has not yet been stated in the case. The Director of Public Prosecutions consented to the couple being returned for trial on indictment.

After the books of evidence were served, the judge made an order sending them forward for trial to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court where they will face their next hearing on Feb. 23, 2018.

They have not yet formally indicated how they will plead. There was no objection to bail subject them having to abide by a number of conditions.

Judge Murphy also told them that they must notify the prosecution if they intended to use an alibi in their defence. Legal aid was granted.

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Catholics face higher unemployment than Protestants in Northern Ireland

Catholics have generally experienced higher rates of unemployment than Protestants in Northern Ireland over the last 14 years, though the difference between the two rates has decreased over the period.

In 1992 the unemployment rate was nine per cent for Protestants and 18 per cent for Catholics; in 2016 these rates were five per cent and seven per cent respectively.

The Executive Office (TEO) published the Labour Force Survey Religion Report 2016 on Wednesday. It examines the labour market characteristics of Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Between 1990 and 2016, the proportion of the population aged 16 or over who reported as Protestant decreased from 56 per cent to 44 per cent. The proportion who reported as Catholic increased from 38 per cent to 42 per cent.

The proportion reported as “other/non-determined” has more than doubled over the same period from six per cent to 14 per cent.

A consistently higher proportion of working age Protestants have been in employment compared with their Catholic counterparts between 1992 and 2016. However, this difference has decreased over time – in 1992, 69 per cent of working age Protestants and 54 per cent of working age Catholics were in employment; by 2016 these rates were 71 per cent and 68 per cent respectively.



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Asylum seekers waiting nine months for decision on status to be allowed to work

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Asylum seekers who have not had a decision on their status within nine months of applying will be allowed to work.

The Minister for Justice has announced sweeping reforms of the immigration system on foot of a Supreme Court ruling.

Last year it was found the banning of asylum seekers from seeking employment was unconstitutional.

“When the Supreme Court gave its judgment in the N.V.H. case on 30 May last, the outcome was that the Court declared Section 16(3)(b) of the International Protection Act, which prohibits access to employment without any temporal limit for applicants, to be unconstitutional in a protection process,” said Charlie Flanagan TD.

“The Government could have chosen to interpret this decision narrowly. It could have simply amended the provision prohibiting access to the labour market in the Act by way of primary legislation.

“Instead, the Government listened to the calls from Deputies and Senators, the McMahon group and NGOs that Ireland should align its bespoke system with European norms.

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Ban preventing asylum seekers from working to be declared unconstitutional in February

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The Supreme Court will declare the ban preventing asylum seekers from working here unconstitutional in February.

The five-judge court told lawyers for the State that it would make the declaration on 9 February, regardless of the progress the State has made in addressing the court’s findings on the ban.

The court found the ban to be unconstitutional “in principle” last May.

But it deferred making the declaration for six months to allow the legislature to deal with the issue.

When the case returned to court today, the State asked the court for a further postponement until March.

Lawyers for the State said the matter was complex with many issues requiring to be addressed.

The court heard that the State was in the process of opting into the EC reception directive, which contains a provision requiring member states to allow the right to work in certain circumstances.

Lawyers for the Rohingya man, who brought the successful challenge to the ban, said they would prefer the court to go ahead with the declaration today, but said the issue was for the court to decide.

Chief Justice Mr Justice Frank Clarke said the court last May, had “exceptionally” not taken the normal course of immediately declaring the provisions to be unconstitutional rendering them inoperative.

He said the court recognised there were choices to be made as to how the difficulty was to be addressed.

Mr Justice Clarke said the whole point of giving the State a time period was to allow the legislature make decisions and the court had no role in those.

He said there would be no further hearing and the court’s intention was to make a formal declaration of unconstitutionality on 9 February.


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450 sham marriages halted by gardaí following crackdown

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A total of 450 marriages have been halted in Ireland since the introduction of sham marriage legislation.

Gardaí set up a dedicated operation – codenamed Vantage – two years ago to tackle an alleged trafficking ring which was using women who had been trafficked illegally into Ireland to take part in sham marriages.

Since the operation was set up in August 2015, General Registrar Offices can alert gardaí if any doubts arise about the legitimacy of any potential marriages.

The latest figures from An Garda Síochána show that since August 2015, there have been more than 250 objections to marriages raised by registrars.

Gardaí confirmed that over 80 marriages have been cancelled by the General Registrar and An Garda Síochána following enquiries and investigations by Operation Vantage.

When “no shows” on the date of the ceremony are added to the picture, an excess of 450 marriages have not been completed since Operation Vantage was launched.

The crackdown has also resulted in a fall in the number of notifications of intention to marry between EU and non-EU citizens.

Figures from gardaí should that 1,468 notifications were received in 2015. Last year a total of 694 notifications were received, this shows a drop of 53%.

Levels have continued to fall in 2017 with notifications recorded in January to September 2017, compared to 580 during the same period of 2016 – a drop of 41%.

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