Hundreds of South Africans have applied for asylum in the Republic of Ireland over the last year.
According to data supplied to BusinessTech by Ireland’s Department of Justice and Equality, from 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2019 just over 300 South Africans applied for international protection (IP).
What makes this unusual, is that South Africa is considered a ‘safe country’, with the Irish government deeming it to be a stable and safe democracy.
The Irish Times reported that as many as 41% of all asylum claims in the first half of the year were from Albanian, Georgian and South African nationals – all deemed “safe countries of origin” by Ireland.
It noted that an asylum seeker from a country regarded as safe is far less likely to be granted leave to remain status, with the international protection primarily designed to assist refugees from troubled countries.
The number of claims for asylum from all nationalities could climb to 5,000 in 2019, the highest level since 2004.
Reports state that just over 6,000 people are currently living in Ireland’s 39 Direct Provision centres, which house asylum seekers who have permission to remain in Ireland until the examination of their international protection application is complete.
Permission to remain is a status which may be granted at the discretion of the Minister for Justice and Equality to persons who are not deemed eligible for refugee status or subsidiary protection but who are permitted to remain lawfully in Ireland on humanitarian grounds or for some other compelling reason.
Currently, South Africans can travel to the Republic of Ireland visa-free, making it one of the only European countries that allow this access.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Equality explained that if a person wishes to make an application for international protection, they must indicate this in person to the minister of Justice and Equality.
“This must be done as soon as possible after entry to the state, either at the airport or seaport where the international protection applicant has arrived in Ireland.
“By comparison, visa applicants must apply for a visa from their home country or a country where they are a legally resident,” he said.
“All applications for international protection made in Ireland, regardless of the nationality of the applicant, are processed under the International Protection Act 2015 and in accordance with international and EU law,” he said.
“Every application is assessed individually and decided on its own merits.”