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Not the elephant in the room anymore: Direct Provision System and Deportations

Not the elephant in the room anymore: Direct Provision System and Deportations

Do you remember the story of Somali asylum seeker Mohamed Sleyum Ali? Irish Times reported it: In March 2014 he was deported from Ireland, attacked and left to die within hours of his arrival in Tanzania…

One day he was in Dublin, soon after he was fighting for his life.

What do you think of this story?





Whatever you call this story, it was definitely a preventable one.

In 2014, a young person didn’t need to die because of his immigration status or because of his nationality or the asylum regime in Ireland.

And if a person’s life (not just his/her standard wellbeing or basic safety, but his/her life) depends on immigration laws, the person’s nationality or immigration status then there is something else in this story: Institutional racism.


Whatever technical debates, some in the state bureaucracy and in the business of ‘immigration’ may hold on deportations, there is a lot more to it than just the cold jargon of legal technicalities and a state-centric view of the deportation system.

Deportation, the enforced removal of failed asylum seekers, is a “last resort”, according to the Department of Justice. It says that “more than 22,500 orders have been made since 1999, but just over 4,700 have been enforced”.

This seems like a positive situation where, looking at the numbers, four in 5 deportation orders were not carried out. But that’s not the full story at all. If numbers matter, one has to look at the wider picture and at great many sets of numbers before applauding the single and misleading deportation statistics above.

The whole end-to-end journey of seeking asylum, applying for refugee status, the process of dealing with refugee applications, the outcome, options for applicants based on the outcome, appeals and deportations are not just extremely complicated (as far as the humanitarian process  of seeking asylum is concerned) but also not transparent and not democratic.

There are many genuine personal, legal and logistical reasons to why not all of the 22,500 deportations orders were not processed, but the goodwill of the state doesn’t rank high in this list of reasons. Furthermore 4,700 deportations are not a small number to ignore and if you include the ‘Dublin II Regulation’ numbers (The objective of this Regulation is to identify the EU member state responsible for examining an asylum application and send the applicants to that member state if he/she entered EU via that member state before arriving to the country of asylum application) the ‘deportation’ numbers would be much higher. EU has also signed Readmission Agreements with Euro-peripheral countries, such as Turkey, to deport asylum seekers who arrive to EU from these agreement counties.

But the devil is not just in the numerical and secretive process of deportations. One has to appreciate the asylum-refugee application system as a whole to understand its truly inhumane and racist nature.

One also has to understand what happens to people who are deported back to their countries into to the hands of despotic murderous regimes. For many asylum seekers this means life or death.


We all know too well the conditions in the Direct Provision Centres in Ireland and the inhumanity of the Direct Provision System (DPS) as whole. But the situation in Ireland is not limited to the horrors of the DPS. While the DPS is simply a holding/staging system for asylum seekers with the state having full powers over the lives of people, the process leading to DPS is even scarier.

According to the 2013 report published by Eurostat, the official European Union statistics agency, “Ireland comes last when it comes to granting refugee status to asylum seekers, below even Malta which has a population of just over 500,000”.

Some media reactions to the findings of this report were as follows:

Irish welcome doesn’t apply to asylum seekers or refugees, (Irish Central)

Cead mile failte – but not if you’re fleeing for your life (Irish Independent)

Ireland rejects more asylum seekers than most EU countries (

According to EUROSTAT in 2013 the EU average for granting refugee status was 25.2 per cent while Ireland scored a miserable low of 8 per cent for the first instance decisions. 

Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) is the state agency dealing with the refugee applications. Its role is “to investigate applications from persons seeking a declaration for refugee status and to issue appropriate recommendations to the Minister for Justice and Equality”

Surprisingly, ORAC has website has very detailed statistical details in their annual reports. It is evident from ORAC data that Ireland is indeed a mean host country when it comes to granting refugee status to asylum seekers.

A summary based on ORAC data shows us a bleak picture over the past 12 years and explains why the DPS has become such a critical entity in the wider asylum-refugee regime in Ireland.


With this absolutely huge rejection rate, many asylum seekers are left with no choice but to appeal the decision of ORAC. Appeals are processed by Refugee Appeals Tribunal and this process is not a very friendly one either.


A report published by the Irish Refugee Council (Difficult to believe: the assessment of asylum claims in Ireland October 17, 2012) has found damming facts about the refugee process and procedures in Ireland and is calling for an urgent review of the refugee application process.

The report examines the asylum process in Ireland with a systematic review of documents which form the basis of what is known as the `Refugee Status Determination' procedure in Ireland, in order to get a better understanding of why the majority of applications for refugee status in this country are refused. The UK acceptance rate is four times that of the average in Ireland. The evidence obtained in this study suggests that the process itself is responsible and, particularly where the Tribunal (RAC) is concerned, there are reasons to believe that there is a ‘culture of disbelief’ that informs the approach that some Tribunal Members take.

Sue Conlan, the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said, “What disturbs me about our findings is the fact that many people who appear to have legitimate claims appear not to be receiving a fair examination of their claim and are as a result being denied protection [...]”.

Prof Rosemary Byrne, Director of the Centre for Post Conflict Justice, Trinity College Dublin said: “There is cause for grave concern about Ireland’s protection record for refugees. This research provides a critical insight into very straightforward and cost effective ways the asylum system can, and should be, strengthened to ensure that those coming to Ireland with a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin can be guaranteed a fair assessment of their claims”.


Ireland is not receiving a huge percentage of the European asylum seekers. This country is not sinking under the weight of asylum seekers!

The percentage of asylum seekers who are granted refugee statuses is extremely low, (The 2002-2014 average is just 6 per cent).

The very high percentage of rejections forces the asylum seekers into long/complex appeal process.

Many appeals are rejected by Refugee Appeals Tribunal due to an institutionally dismissive culture in the state.

The appeals process is not transparent.

As part of this high percentage rejection application and appeal regime Direct Provision System is used as a staging area where asylum seekers have no real control of their lives and their own future.

Direct Provision Systems functions as a locking mechanism for asylum seekers and it feeds the deportation regime. Asylum seekers live in constant fear of deportation.

The overall process of asylum-refugee system in Ireland is inhumane and state-centric rather than focusing on protecting vulnerable people.


The Direct Provision System is beyond repair and has hurt enough people. It must be ended.

All Asylum seekers in Direct Provision System should be granted permanent leave and residency.

All Asylum seekers should be given the right to work and education, like all other citizens.

Ireland should declare an end to deportations and process all pending asylum applications and grant asylum seekers permanent residency.

The overall refugee application process must be changed completely and a humanitarian, open, transparent and care-oriented system should be put in place.

Migrants fleeing war zones, disasters, despotic regimes should have free-safe-legal passage into Europe and easy ways to apply for asylum.

Ireland has the capacity, capability and the means to look after the suffering people. It must also use all platforms in the EU to change the current border control policies.

End the Readmission agreement.

EU to significantly assist Syrian refugees and accept greater number of Syrian refugees rather than shutting the borders and letting migrants die at sea.





Some interesting media reports

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