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 unfavourable myths and misinformation about asylum seekers and how asylum seekers live in Ireland.  A crucial part of what we do is to raise public understanding about refugee issues and to explain why Ireland should be proud of it tradition of offering refuge to those in need of international protection.

Useful Definitions:

Aged Out Minor

When an unaccompanied child turns 18 and their application for asylum is still pending they are moved from the care of the state into the Direct Provision system and become known as “aged out minors”.

Asylum seeker

Asylum seekers are people seeking protection as refugees, who are waiting for the authorities to decide on their applications. They 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.

Direct Provision

The system for accommodating asylum seekers in Ireland.  Asylum seekers are accommodated in hostel-style accommodation run on a for-profit basis by private contractors.  The centres provide food, board and for asylum seekers’ basic needs. In addition they receive a weekly cash allowance of €19.10 per adult and €15.60 per child and a medical card. They are not allowed to work and are not entitled to usual social welfare payments, although they may apply for an exceptional needs payment from the local Community Welfare Officer. The weekly allowances and exceptional payments are awarded on a discretionary basis by the Department of Social Protection.

Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres

Centres that have been established to accommodate people arriving to Ireland under the EU Relocation and Resettlement Schemes. The centres provide food, board and for the basic needs of the people residing there as well as providing an initial orientation  programme operated by the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration.

Family Reunification

People with protection status have the right to apply for certain family members to join them in Ireland.

International Protection Appeals Tribunal (formerly the Refugee Appeals Tribunal)

The Tribunal decides appeals of those persons whose application for International Protection status has not been recommended by the International Protection Office. The Tribunal also determines appeals under the Dublin System Regulations

International Protection Office (formerly the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner – ORAC)

The International Protection Office (IPO) is an office responsible for processing and deciding applications for international protection under the International Protection Act 2015. It also considers, as part of a single procedure process, whether applicants should be given permission to remain.

Leave to Remain

A person may be granted ‘leave to remain’ in Ireland for humanitarian or other compelling reasons.  This is at the discretion of the Minister for Justice.  People with leave to remain can live and work in the country, but cannot apply for family reunification.  The conditions attached to ‘leave to remain’ can vary considerably.


In plain English, a refugee is anyone who cannot return to their country for fear 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 of 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
  5. Political opinion – this does not simply mean that you have to be a member of a political party, but if you have any political opinions, or even if people think you do.

Refugees are entitled to be protected against forcible return to their countries of origin.

Relocation scheme

This is a scheme whereby EU members states, including Ireland, were asked to demonstrate solidarity with Greece and Italy by agreeing to relocate a number of people from camps in Greece and Italy to have their applications for asylum processed in their country.

Resettlement scheme

This is a scheme whereby EU members states were asked to commit to offer resettlement to their country for programme refugees from places like the Lebanon and Jordan. The people brought to Ireland under this scheme are already recognised as refugees and have been processed by UNHCR before their arrival.

Separated Children / Unaccompanied Children

Children under 18 years of age, who are outside their country of origin, and separated from both parents and their previous/legal customary primary care giver. They are under the care of the Health Service Executive (Tusla) in Ireland. They have unique challenges, including the need for safe accommodation and assistance with presenting their asylum claims, if they need asylum.

Subsidiary Protection

Under an EU Directive implemented in Ireland in 2006, a status of subsidiary protection was introduced.  If a person is from a third country [i.e. outside the E.U.] or is stateless and does not qualify as a refugee but does face a real risk of suffering serious harm if returned to his or her country of origin, they are eligible for subsidiary protection.


Trafficking is not to be confused with people smuggling. Smuggling refers to situations where a person or persons pay someone to be transported to a different country of their own free will, although in many cases the person acquiring the services of a smuggler is in a very difficult situation and this may be the only available option to them to access a place of safety or country in which they wish to apply for asylum. In most cases smugglers operate as a business and charge people large sums of money for journeys with no guarantees for their safety or of reaching their intended destination.


Trafficking refers to situations where people are moved from place to place or country to country against their will or under duress, by means such as deception, coercion or force, usually for the gains of others, in that the person(s) trafficked will be exploited for financial gain.