FAQs about asylum

What does international protection mean?  What is the difference between a ‘refugee’ and an ‘asylum seeker’?  How do asylum seekers live in Ireland?  Can asylum seekers work?

Here at the IRC, we come across questions like these every day. Sadly, we also come across myths and misinformation about people in the asylum process and how they live in Ireland.  A crucial part of what we do is raise public understanding about refugee issues and show why Ireland should be proud of it tradition of offering safety to people in need of international protection.

Who is a refugee?

In plain English, a refugee is anyone who leaves their country because they fear they are in danger of persecution for one of the following five reasons:

  1. Race – including ethnicity
  2. Religion – in some countries having no religion is viewed as badly as being the ‘wrong’ religion
  3. Nationality
  4. Membership of a particular social group – this can include things like membership of a trade union, your gender (i.e. male or female), your sexual orientation, your age (i.e. if children are in danger of persecution)
  5. Political opinion – this is not only if you are a member of a political party, but if you have any political opinions, or even if people think you do.

Who is eligible for subsidiary protection?

A third country national who is not a refugee but if returned to his/her country of origin faces a real risk of suffering serious harm consisting of the death penalty or execution or torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of the person in their country of origin or a serious and individual threat to a civilian’s life or person by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict.

Who is an asylum seeker?

Asylum seekers are people seeking to be recognised as refugees, who are waiting for the authorities to decide on their applications. People in this process are legally entitled to stay in the state until their application for protection is decided. They also have a right to a fair hearing of that application and to an appeal if necessary.

Where do refugees come from?Who is a refugee

Refugees come from many places across the world. Sometimes the persecution they flee is well known and recognised, for example the war in Syria. For others, their plight is not so widely known, or the persecution they face is more personal – e.g. because of your sexuality or gender. There is often a misunderstanding that refugees are only born of war and conflict. The reality is there are many reasons why a person may become a refugee.

How do asylum seekers live in Ireland?

While a person’s application is being processed, they are accommodated by the government’s Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) in Direct Provision centres around the country.  These centres are a communal style of accommodation, where families are often housed in one room, and single people usually share a room with other single adults, quite often up to four people in one room.  Shower and toilet facilities are often shared. Meals are cooked for the residents, and served at a set time each day in a canteen.

Do asylum seekers get social welfare?

While in this process people are not entitled to usual social welfare payments, although they may apply for an exceptional needs payment from the local Community Welfare Officer. People receive a weekly allowance of €21.60 per adult and €21.60 per child.  This must cover any additional  expenses a person may have. People in this system also receive a medical card.

Can people in the asylum process work?

In light of a recent Supreme Court case the Government will soon be opting into an EU Directive that includes a right to work for people in the asylum process. This will bring us in line with other EU member states. Our concern is that they will make this right restrictive in nature which would mean very few people will actually be able to go out and get a job. We would encourage you to write, drop into, or call your local representatives to let them know that you support a fair and accessible right to work for people in the asylum process. To see how other EU member states apply the right to work visit the Asylum and Information Database.

Can children who are asylum seekers or refugees go to school?

All children that have been given refugee status are entitled to the same rights as Irish children including the same access to education.

Children that are waiting for a decision on their asylum application can attend primary and secondary school, but they are not entitled to free fees for college and must pay non-EU fees which they usually cannot afford.  Remember, asylum seekers receive only €21.60 per week per adult and €21.60 per child.  It would take a long time to save enough for college fees.

How long do people wait in this system?

The Irish Refugee Council understands that hundreds of people, who have already been waiting for an interview since the beginning of 2017, will not receive a decision until the middle of 2018. Also, a person who claims asylum today, whose case is not prioritised, will likely not be interviewed until the middle of 2019, a wait of at least 20 months.

Under the old legislation people were spending an average of three – four years in the system.