Written Answers. - Asylum Applications.
253 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the percentage of asylum seekers whose applications for asylum are refused; when he expects to have the backlog of applications cleared; and the position in this regard. [15228/02]
I refer the Deputy to the reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 27, 31, 133 and 154 of 21 February 2002.
During the period 1994 to 2001 approximately 5% of all applicants were granted refugee status at first stage. When the results of appeals lodged during the period are taken into account, this figure rises to approximately 8%.
It is evident that the increase in processing capacity which has been put in place in both the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, ORAC, and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal as part of the Government's asylum strategy is making a real impact on the backlog of cases and is helping to reduce progressively the processing times.
I am informed that at 31 May 2002, 2,542 cases in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and Refugee Appeals Tribunal, RAT, were over six months old, with the majority of these being in the final stages of processing. This compares to 4,902 cases over six months old on 31 October 2001. I am also informed that interviews are at present being scheduled by the ORAC for applicants who arrived in January-February 2002 and the situation will be reached in the near future where the main focus of that office will be on applications made this year.
I have been informed by the ORAC that as at 31 May 2002, there are some 5,736 asylum applications awaiting final decision in that office. Of this figure, 4,216, 74%, applied in 2002. Of the remaining 1,520, the vast majority of these have had an interview or are scheduled for interview.
The Refugee Appeals Tribunal has informed me that the estimated number of appeals on hands is 2,541. This figure refers to all appeals received up to 31 May 2002. Over 70% of these are at an advanced stage of review and processing.
Since July 2001, cases scheduled, processed and completed significantly exceeded intake and the increase in processing capacity as well as the tackling of apparently abandoned cases has had a real impact on the backlog of cases on hands.
In the ORAC, 12, 085 interviews were scheduled in 2001, which is over twice the number scheduled in 2000. In the period 1 January 2002 to 31 May 2002, 5,676 interviews were scheduled, an average of 1,135 per month. By the end of 2001, almost all applicants who lodged a claim before 2001 had been offered a substantive interview. The total number of cases processed by the ORAC in 2001 and 2002, to 31 May, was 12,144 and 7,058 respectively. The total number of appeals completed by the RAT in 2001 and 2002, to 31 May, was 3,472 and 2,296 respectively.
The Refugee Appeals Tribunal scheduled 170% more hearings in 2001 as compared to 2000.
254 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of asylum seekers who have been repatriated to their native countries; if there are difficulties in carrying out the repatriations; and the way in which this compares with the number whose application for asylum has been refused. [15229/02]
I should state at the outset that asylum seekers have the right of temporary residence in the State under section 9 of the Refugee Act while their asylum applications are being considered and are not deported.
I may make a deportation order under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act, 1999, in respect of nine categories of persons, one of which is persons refused refugee status in the State. The vast majority of the removals involved former asylum seekers whose applications were refused. A total of 823 persons have been deported from the State from the commencement of the Immigration Act, 1999 in November 1999 to 21 June, 2002, including 72 persons returned to other EU countries under the Dublin Convention. A further 49 persons left the State before their deportation orders could be effected and are deemed to be deported. In addition, 810 persons are known to have left the State voluntarily since the beginning of 2000 in so far as they have notified my Department of their departure.
The main difficulties in carrying out deportations include evasion of deportation order. There are currently over 2,600 persons evading orders who are being sought by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. However, it may be that many of these have left the State without informing my Department or the Gardaí. Many states insist on documenting their nationals before readmitting them. This can delay the removal process, especially where the country of return does not have a consular mission in Ireland and the persons concerned have destroyed their identity papers. Disruptions by deportees on return flights has necessitated the chartering of two aircraft earlier this year to remove persons to Algeria in January and Nigeria last March. The potential for such disruptions requires significant Garda presence on flights to escort deportees to their country of origin, thereby making the process labour intensive and costly.
Re-admission agreements concluded recently with Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and Nigeria are helping to facilitate the easier return of their nationals.
In the period November 1999 to 21 June 2002 a total of 4,420 deportation orders have been made. Of this total 823 orders have been enforced, representing approximately 18% of the total number of orders made. The number of applicants for asylum whose applications have been refused and have been informed of the intention to consider their deportations is 11,312. Deportation orders have been made in respect of 3,778 of these representing 34% of the total asylum refusals and 85% of the total number of deportation orders made under the Immigration Act, 1999 to date.
Consideration under section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, has yet to be made in respect of more than 7,000 persons whose applications for asylum have been refused as to whether they are to be deported or allowed to remain in the State.