The Irish Refugee Council is a charity that supports and advocates for people seeking protection and refugees in Ireland. This resource gives information about the refugee process in Ireland. We hope it will be a useful source of information and respond to some questions you may have. At the end of the document, there is also a list of other resources that may be helpful.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee? Is there a difference between an international protection applicant and a refugee? 

  • An ‘asylum seeker’ is a person who has made an application to be a refugee. An ‘international protection applicant’ is a different term but refers to the same situation. The Irish Refugee Council generally uses the phrase ‘person seeking protection’ or ‘international protection applicant’. When speaking to a wider audience that may not be familiar with these terms we use the phrase asylum seeker.  

 Who is seeking asylum in Ireland and what is the registration process they must undertake? 

  • The majority of asylum seekers arrive at Dublin airport, some also arrive via different ports of entry e.g. Rosslare ferry port. Asylum seekers are interviewed by an immigration officer on arrival.  
  • Irish law gives the power to arrest someone if they have not made reasonable efforts to establish their identity or if they have destroyed their travel document.  
  • If a person makes an asylum application at the airport or port, they are then directed to the International Protection Office on Mount Street in Dublin where they are registered. Registration includes being fingerprinted and photographed. Their passport is taken from them, if they have one, and remains in the possession of the IPO during the asylum process and indefinitely if they receive refugee status.  
  • Their fingerprints are taken and checked on an international database (Eurodac) to establish if they have applied for asylum elsewhere in the EU. They will also be checked against Interpol and Europol databases. They are assigned an identity number. If they need accommodation, they are given a designated address at which they must reside. Currently, some protection applicants are not being offered accommodation. As of 12 April, 501 protection applicants were not offered accommodation and left homeless.1 
  • Since November 2022 new procedures have been introduced in the International Protection Office to accelerate the process for making a protection application in Ireland.  The main purpose of these new regulations is to establish an accelerated process for international protection applicants from designated ‘safe countries of origin’.2 On the day of application, or shortly after, they must complete a detailed questionnaire, in person at the International Protection Office. They are then subject to a substantive and detailed interview about the details of their protection application claim. The Irish Refugee Council has criticised these changes as they remove, in our opinion, the possibility of practically accessing legal advice before a person completes the questionnaire.3  
  • Their application is subject to the Dublin III Regulation if they have applied for asylum in another EU country, it can also be deemed inadmissible if the person is deemed to have a sufficient connection to a safe third country such as the United Kingdom.  
  • Irish law states that a person can be excluded from refugee protection if they have committed a serious crime.4 

How does Ireland decide who is a refugee and how long does this process take? 

  • Refugee status determination in Ireland is, in our 30-year experience, rigorous and involves a detailed examination of a person’s application.  
  • A refugee is a person who has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of one of five reasons (race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion).  If a person is not recognised as a refugee, their application will also be considered as to whether they should receive subsidiary protection.5  
  • To receive subsidiary protection substantial grounds have shown that the person is at risk of serious harm, such as the death penalty or execution, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or serious and individual threat to a civilian’s life because of internal or international armed conflict.6 
  • The median processing time for all international protection cases (which includes decisions on permission to remain) processed to completion by the IPO in Quarter 4 of 2022 was 10 months. The median processing time for cases processed to completion for all of 2022 was 18 months.7 
  • If a person is refused refugee status they have one right of appeal to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal. A person has only one right of appeal.  

Why do some asylum seekers come from ‘safe’ countries such as Georgia, how does Ireland consider these applications? 

  • Some countries are designated as a ‘safe country of origin’ by Ireland.8 This means that it can be shown that there is generally and consistently no persecution, no torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and no threat by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict. 
  • If someone comes from a safe third country, an individual assessment of their application must still be made9 and the International Protection Office will still consider a person’s application for refugee status.  
  • A person from a country designated as ‘safe’ can still be recognised as a refugee. As an example, between January and June 2022, 256 decisions were made on Georgian applications (Georgia is deemed a safe country of origin). Of those, 20% received refugee status, i.e., 2 in 10.10 In 2021 18% of Georgian appeals were successful.11  
  • Ireland is not alone in receiving asylum applications from Georgia. Georgians have been one of the 10 main applicant groups in the EU almost every month since May 2021.12 The EU Asylum Agency have stated that the invasion of Ukraine has been a key factor influencing the increase in Georgian nationals applying for international protection in the EU13 as the worsening economic and socio-political conditions leave many desperate.14 
  • In November 2022 the Irish government introduced a new procedure to consider applications from safe countries of origin.  

Why do some asylum seekers arrive without a passport? How many and why do people not present a passport on arrival at the airport? 

  • A travel document and passport is a crucial form of identity, without it a person may struggle to show that they are from the country they say they are from. In 2022, 70,000 people applied for protection in Ireland, from Ukraine and around the world. Only a small proportion of those did not have a document. The Irish Refugee Council believes that we should be careful about overstating the number of people in an undocumented situation on arrival in Ireland and that it is a widespread phenomenon. It is also worth noting, that where reports state that people did not provide a document, we recommend caution around an automatic assumption that it was destroyed. As noted below there are reasons, in our experience, why a person may not produce a document on arrival.  
  • Article 31 of the Refugee Convention15 states a person seeking refugee status must still have their application processed even if he or she has entered a state illegally. The International Protection Act states that a person who is at the frontier of the State (whether lawfully or unlawfully) may make an application for international protection. This rationale exists because there is no visa to claim asylum, and it is very difficult for a person from a refugee-producing country to get a visa. A person, in our experience may not produce a document for several reasons:   
  • Fear of retribution: For some, it will not have been possible or safe for them to obtain passports or visas to travel. For example, Afghanistan’s passport office is often closed and waiting lists are extremely long. In addition, some people may be putting their lives at risk by attending the offices to seek a passport. For this reason, some people will be forced to travel without any document. Other people will have no option but to rely on a false document to travel. They fear retribution if this is discovered and do not feel comfortable disclosing documents.  
  • Fear of immediate removal: some people may fear if they produce the document they will be immediately removed back to the country of origin or the country from which they have travelled from. 
  • Smugglers and traffickers: People are often forced to travel in illegal or irregular ways, including using a smuggler who may take the passport back at the end of the journey.  
  • It is worth noting that safe pathways were opened for people fleeing Ukraine in the aftermath of the Russian invasion. People were allowed to board flights with birth certificates or internal identity documents. Visa rules were significantly loosened. This was a commendable response.   
  • Section 20 of the International Protection Act does give the power to arrest someone if they have not made reasonable efforts to establish their identity or if they have destroyed their travel document.  

How many people are recognised as refugees in Ireland and are we different to other European countries? Are all asylum seekers recognised as refugees? How long does it take for an asylum claim to be considered? 

Recognition rates compared: 

  • In 2022, 35% of decisions made in Ireland resulted in a person being given refugee or subsidiary protection.16  As a comparison, the average EU recognition rate across all member states for 2021 was 34%.17  The EU recognition rate for the month of November 2022 (most recent monthly statistics available from the EU Asylum Agency) was 39% in November.18    

Application rates compared:  

  • In 2021 Ireland received 0.4% of the EU’s total asylum applications. For the month of November 2022 Ireland received 0.1% of the EU’s total asylum applications.19 It is also worth noting that the vast majority of the world’s refugees are not in the EU but other countries around the world.  

How are asylum seekers accommodated and do asylum seekers get automatic access to housing?   

  • A protection applicant has no entitlement to social housing or to be on the social housing waiting list.  
  • If they do not have money to rent, they receive accommodation. This is often referred to as Direct Provision. In recent years this accommodation has included emergency accommodation, such as office blocks, hotels, convention centre halls and tents.  
  • In January 2023 the government stated that it may no longer accommodate some adults.20 As of 19 April, 522 people seeking protection have not been offered accommodation and are homeless.21 
  • If, after their protection application is considered, someone is recognised as a refugee and they need housing, they must apply to go on to the social housing waiting list. They have no priority access to the list and are subject to the same waiting times as others.  

Do asylum seekers get social welfare? 

  • An asylum seeker is not entitled to social welfare support. They are subject to a means test and if they cannot live independently, they receive payment referred to as the Daily Expenses Allowance (DEA).  
  • An adult in the asylum process in receipt of DEA gets €38.80 per week; a child gets €29.90. I.e. €5.54 per day for an adult and €4.27 for a child. These rates were last changed in 2018. 
  • A person can have their DEA reduced if they have caused the delay in consideration of their application, failed to comply with a requirement on them, breached the house rules or engaged in violent behaviour. They can also be required to contribute to the ‘rent’ if they are working.  
  • Child asylum seekers do not receive child benefit.  
  • International Protection applicants can apply for an exceptional Needs Payment for items like clothes. They can receive Back to Education Clothing and Footwear Allowance. 
  • A person can apply for permission to work if they have not had a decision on their asylum application within six months of making their application. Work permits are issued for a twelve-month period and must be renewed at intervals.  (see below for more information on work). 

Can asylum seekers work in Ireland? 

  • An international protection applicant can apply for permission to access the labour market six months after the date of application. Work permits are issued on a 12-month period and must be renewed at intervals. 22    
  • It is a criminal offence to work prior to this.  
  • Up until 2018 an asylum seeker could not work; however, this was successfully challenged in a Supreme Court decision in 2017.  
  • Approximately 8,000 people have been given permission to work since 2018.   
  • Many people in the protection process are employed as essential workers, doing vital work that supports our communities, including during Covid-19. 
  • The Reception Conditions Directive requires Member States to grant asylum-seekers the right to work within 9 months, or earlier, of applying for asylum but allows States to determine the conditions under which this right is conferred. 

Why has there been an increase in people seeking asylum in Ireland in recent months 2022? 

  • EU+ countries received some 107,300 asylum applications in November 2022, a new high since 2016 and the third consecutive month with around 100,000 applications. Ireland is not alone in receiving an increase in applications.  
  • The Economic and Social Research Institute published research23 in November 2022 which identified the following as a factor:  
  • Post-COVID-19 catch-up, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and conditions in countries of origin 
  • Research identifies that for many of the top nationalities applying for international protection in Ireland (including Somali, Afghan, Ukrainian, Egyptian and Georgian), conditions and conflict in countries of origin are important drivers. Applications from these nationalities are increasing not only in Ireland, but across Europe. 
  • Movement of refugees from other EU Member States to Ireland also appears to be playing a role in Ireland’s increase, although it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions because the available data is limited. Reasons may include reuniting with family, living conditions in the first EU Member States, as well as limited possibilities for intra-EU mobility. 
  • Policy changes in the UK were unlikely to have had a significant effect on recent application figures in Ireland. However, there may be a small deflection effect for certain nationalities (e.g., South African and Zimbabwean), whereby instead of going to the UK, applicants come to Ireland. Applications from other nationalities are on the rise generally in the UK. 
  • While a generally positive perception of Ireland was also found to be a potential factor, the research concluded that it was highly unlikely that specific integration or reception policies in Ireland were influencing applications. 
  • Results from the confluence of short-term and likely temporary drivers increasing absolute numbers, with potentially longer-term drivers changing distribution patterns.   

Why are refugees still coming from Ukraine, is Ireland taking more refugees from Ukraine than other countries? 

  • The situation in Ukraine is deteriorating.  
  • Fillipo Grandi, the Director of UNHCR stated, in January 2023:  
  • “I was appalled by the level of destruction I saw as a result of Russian missiles and shelling,” Grandi said at the end of his visit. “Civilian infrastructure like power plants, water systems, kindergartens and apartment buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Civilians, including children and the elderly, have been killed or fled their homes, having their entire lives uprooted by these senseless attacks.” 
  • The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated in its February 2023 report24 
  • “Since the Russian Federation's 24 February invasion of Ukraine, the number of people in need of humanitarian aid and protection increased from approximately 3 million people to nearly 18 million, and hostilities and fighting spread across the country. Throughout the year, millions of Ukrainians endured intense hostilities, which killed and injured thousands of civilians, forced millions from their homes, destroyed jobs and livelihoods, and left many struggling to access food, water, health care, education, a safe place to live, and other essential services. For people in the east of the country – in Donetska and Luhanska oblasts – this only further exhausted their coping capacities, already limited by the years of fighting in the region.” 
  • As of 10 February there are 8,054,405 refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe. There are 73,002 refugees from Ukraine in Ireland (0.9% of the total number of refugees).25 
  • As a comparison the number of people receiving temporary protection in a sample of other countries is:  
  • Czech Republic: 485,775 
  • France: 118,994 
  • Germany: 881,399 
  • Finland: 49,290 
  • Lithuania: 73,606 

Other resources: 

Contact for further information: 

 April 2023, Version 1.