Since 2003, there has been a large drop in the number of those claiming refugee or other forms of protection in Ireland (Statistics here). However, the numbers of people staying within the direct provision system remains stagnant. (Those needing an overview of the direct provision can access an article I wrote in 2007 here). RTE News reports that the Secretary General of the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform (DJELR), Mr. Séan Aylward has attributed the rise in numbers to asylum seekers in direct provision using “…every conceivable form of appeal …”.
Mr. Aylward states that some asylum seekers are using their legal rights “in an adept way” so as to delay return to their countries of origin. Mr. Aylward further states that 1,500 of the 7,000 people currently within the direct provision system have “repeatedly over and over invoked new avenues of appeal.”
The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) (an aegis of DJELR) has accommodated over 53,000 persons in this system since its inception in April 2000 (statistics here). By the end of 2008, RIA had accommodated 7,214 persons. By August 2009, there were 6,907 residents (which seems to have risen to 7,000 since the last official statistics). Using very crude mathematics, it appears that the average cost of keeping one individual in direct provision is €12,614 per year. This excludes the payment of €19.10 made to each adult asylum seeker or the provision of €9.60 for each child. As many of you will already know, asylum seekers are not entitled to work and, in general, will not be entitled to any other welfare benefit unless they can satisfy the habitual residence condition (see a blog post on this which was posted in September 2009).
Regardless of the legitimacy or otherwise of Mr. Aylward’s claims of abuse of the asylum process, protection of socio-economic rights for all individuals is a fundamental right under international human rights law (in particular Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights; however, protections also exist under other human rights conventions).
With the current economic downturn, it will be increasingly difficult for campaigning organisations to argue for asylum seekers to be re-integrated back into the traditional welfare system (see FLAC’s research on the issue here). However, it is precisely in an economic downturn that it is essential to ensure that those who did not cause the banking and economic collapse be further scapegoated. It remains to be seen what will be the precise impact of the economic downturn and whether political and/or public anger will be directed at those asylum seekers within the direct provision system. In a paper that I am (hopefully!) going to be preparing for publication in the near future, I am going to argue that the failure of human rights treaty bodies to deliver clear and unequivocal advice to States on their obligations under human rights treaty law, has led to a system of differentiated entitlement for those seeking asylum in Ireland and the UK. I will claim that asylum seekers are a special category of immigrant, whose status is not clandestine, and whose social and economic rights should be fully protected unless there is a change in the asylee’s immigration status. This will necessitate an examination of whether IHRL permits States to withold socio-economic protections from those who refuse to return to their country of origin after a rejection of the asylum claim. It is the latter issue which needs careful examination, and any input from blog readers and contributors is much appreciated.