THE NUMBER of refugees and asylum seekers residing in Limerick has fallen marginally, in line with the drop in refugee applications the State received last year.
Figures received by the Limerick Chronicle show that all of the Limerick centres, as well as Knockalisheen on the Limerick/Clare border, are currently operating under capacity.
In previous years such centres were full to capacity, and even operated marginally above it.
Records obtained from the Reception & Integration Agency show that as of July 1 this year, there were 182 residents in Knockalisheen (73% of its capacity), 69 in Westbourne on the Dock Road (76% capacity), 99 in Hanratty’s hotel on Glentworth Street (83%) and 66 in Mount Trenchard in Foynes, operating at 94% of its contracted capacity.
The most recent annual report of the Refugee Applications Commissioner reveals that in 2011 the total number of applications for refugee status received was 1,290 - a 33.5% reduction in applications compared to 2010.
Asylum applications are now at levels last seen in the mid-1990s. However, the agency said this is due to the length of time that residents spend in the direct provision system, under which they are not allowed to work or study, and may also be separated from their families. Many seeking asylum in Limerick have complained that they’ve spent seven years “in limbo”.
The cost of the system fell to €69.5m last year, a drop of 12.1% from 2010. During 2011, a total of 1,834 cases were finalised. The top five applicant countries for 2011 were Nigeria (14.1%), Pakistan (13.6%), China (11%), Democratic Republic of Congo (5.4%) and Afghanistan (5.2%) as compared to Nigeria, China, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan for 2010. In 2011, 26 applications were received from unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, which accounted for 2% of the total number of applications received.
Over 240 applications for family reunification were received in 2011, a decrease of 24.4% over the 2010 figure. A total of 424 asylum applications were deemed withdrawn from the process for various reasons including applicants failing to co-operate or attend for interview.