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  • Maureen Kenny

Ireland VS the US: Do we treat Asylum seekers better than the United States & Germany?

Updated: Jan 12


An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2018. Among them are nearly 30 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.(6) I used to constantly criticise the states for how they treated asylum seekers & immigrants, without realising what Ireland had in common with their practices. But what does Ireland have in common with other countries? How do we compare?


"There are worse places than Ireland to be in need of international protection", says Masha Gessen of the New Yorker. For me that's a hard statement to read due to Ireland’s unusual (/poor) administrative treatments of asylum seekers in Direct Provision. Also just because we may be better in some areas...is that ok? and are we better in the ways that count? Is better good enough?


In this article we have compiled a list of statistics regarding the asylum seeking processes in Ireland, in Germany and in the United States We chose to compare Ireland to these countries (i.e. one that is considered to have a functioning and fair asylum system according to international standards and one that does not) in order to convey in what capacities the Irish government is doing right by their asylum seekers and in what capacities it is failing.



Number of Asylum Applications Accepted in 2019:

Ireland: 585 Germany: 41,367

The United States: 46,508


Conclusion: In terms of sheer volume, the United States receives and accepts the most asylum applications each year, however, with a population of 328 million, their intake of asylum seekers in terms of a percentage of their total population is far lower than that of Germany with a population of 83 million. Therefore Ireland, with a population of almost 5 million, is closer to the United State’s level of asylum application acceptance than that of Germany.


Sources:

Asylum Information Database 2019 Country Report: Ireland

Asylum Information Database 2019 Country Report: Germany

U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics’ Annual Flow Report of Refugees and Asylees in 2019

www.un.org



Percentage of Applicants who were granted Refugee Status/Asylum in 2019:

Ireland: 31.37%

Germany: 36.2%

The United States: 15%


Conclusion: We can see here that Ireland’s acceptance rate for asylum applications is more in line with that of Germany. We can take this to mean that if Ireland wants to accept more asylum seekers, it either needs to accept more of its applications or receive more applications.


Sources:

Asylum Information Database 2019 Country Report: Ireland

Asylum Information Database 2019 Country Report: Germany

U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics’ Annual Flow Report of Refugees and Asylees in 2019


Average Waiting Period to be given Asylum:

Ireland: 8 months - 12 years + (average 24 months)

Germany: 4.3 - 18 months (average 7.3-10) (dependant on where refugees were from)

The United States: 6 months - several years (average of 2 years if you are appealing)


Conclusion: This statistic is not to be confused with the time it takes to be given asylum & citizenship.The average length of stay in Direct Provision is 24 months, with many residents having spent up to 10 or 12 years living in these conditions. These wait times are also experienced in America but not Germany.


Germany has been consistently reducing wait times with a goal of achieving 3 months. Ireland may have the longest potential wait time however the data is not disclosed by the US. However, we must note that these are all averages and in both the United States and Germany waiting periods are determined by states and municipalities rather than a centralized entity. We have also seen from other statistical and anecdotal evidence that waiting periods fluctuate dramatically and so these averages should be taken with a grain of salt considering that Ireland had over 7000 and Germany had 57,000 applications pending at the end of 2019.


Sources:

https://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/republic-ireland/asylum-procedure/general/short-overview-asylum-procedure

http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/germany/asylum-procedure/general/short-overview-asylum-procedure

National Immigration Forum’s Fact Sheet: U.S. Asylum Process https://immigrationforum.org/article/fact-sheet-u-s-asylum-process/

Asylum Information Database 2019 Country Report: Ireland

Asylum Information Database 2019 Country Report: Germany

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-speeds-up-asylum-process/a-47453715#:~:text=The%20average%20processing%20time%20was,10.7%20months%20for%20a%20decision.

https://immigrationforum.org/article/fact-sheet-u-s-asylum-process/#:~:text=How%20long%20does%20the%20asylum,his%20or%20her%20asylum%20claim.


Accommodation and Allowances:

Ireland: Asylum applicants are housed in direct provision centres on a full-board basis. A weekly allowance of €38.80 is provided to adults and €29.80 for children.

Germany: Asylum seekers are housed in reception centres for up to six months and receive €135 a month during this time. They are then moved into collective accommodation centres or apartments where they receive €354 euro a month.

The United States: In general, asylum seekers are not eligible for federally funded benefits until they receive asylum. Eligibility for state funded programs varies by state.


Conclusion: Ireland very much occupies the middle ground in terms of accommodation and allowances provided. Germany provides more money to its asylum seekers and also provides them with autonomy by allowing them to cook their own meals. Asylum applicants in Ireland receive less money per week and are provided with no other option than full board at direct provision centres.


Sources:

Citizens Information: Direct Provision System https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/moving_country/asylum_seekers_and_refugees/services_for_asylum_seekers

_in_ireland/direct_provision.html

InfoMigrants: The Asylum Seeker’s Benefits Act in Germany https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/9560/the-asylum-seekers-benefits-act

Human Rights First Frequently Asked Questions https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/asylum/frequently-asked-questions-asylum-seekers


Access to Education/Reeducation Programs:

Ireland:

Asylum seeking children can attend national primary and secondary schools on the same basis as Irish children. For adults, English language and vocational programmes are available but access depends on the location of the Direct Provision centre.


Germany:

Children under the age of 16, regardless of their status, have the right to education however access to the schooling system can be limited in some municipalities. Mandatory and free German language instruction and modules on German law, history and norms are provided by the German government to those who are granted refugee status.


They United States: Under Federal law, states and school districts are to provide all children in the United States equal access to basic public education, regardless of citizenship status. Language and vocational programmes are provided by local ngos and not affiliated with the state.


Conclusion: While all three countries uphold the right of children to access education, the practicalities of getting asylum seeking children into school programmes differs greatly based on location. Germany is the only one of these three countries to have a state mandated language program for asylum seekers regardless of age.


Sources:

The Asylum Information Database

https://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/republic-ireland/reception-conditions/employment-education/access-education

http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/germany/reception-conditions/employment-education/access-education

American Immigration Council

https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/plyler-v-doe-public-education-immigrant-students


Access to the WorkForce:

Ireland: If after at least 8 months an asylum seeker’s case is still being processed, they can join the workforce

Germany: 3 months after an asylum seeker has been given a positive decision is when they usually can join the workforce

The United States: An asylum seeker can join the workforce 365 days after they file their complete asylum application


Conclusion: While it may be possible for asylum seekers in Ireland to access the workforce before those in the United States, the waiting period isn’t clear and depends on certain factors of the pending application. Another interesting thing to note is that in Ireland and in Germany, asylum seekers can not be self employed whereas in the U.S. you can seek permission for self employment.


Sources:

Citizens Information https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/moving_country/asylum_seekers_and_refugees/services_for_asylum_seekers_in_ireland/direct_provision.html

Deutsche Welle

https://www.dw.com/en/when-refugees-want-to-work-in-germany/a-18737104

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-and-asylum/asylum#:~:text=Based%20Upon%20a%20Pending%20Asylum,file%20your%20complete%20asylum%20application.


Conclusion


We are similar to the US in terms of numbers of Asylum seekers allowed in terms of a percentage of their total population. We are similar to Germany in % of applications granted. We are better than the US in terms of accommodation, allowances & right to work but don’t reach Germany’s standard. While all three countries uphold the right of children to access education, the practicalities of getting asylum seeking children into school programmes differs greatly based on location. Germany is the only one of these three countries to have a state mandated language program for asylum seekers regardless of age.


One thing that vastly differentiates us from Germany is the amount of time one can spend in Direct Provision, which is arguably one of the most important factors. 6 months in substandard accommodation is a different story to 12 years. Germany is constantly striving towards shorter wait times that don’t affect the quality of application assessment. They maintain the same % acceptance rate as us whilst processing a large percentage of claims within the first year. They also are clear about trying to improve their systems regardless of them being comparatively better than others.


Whilst I am glad we do provide for asylum seekers in Ireland we need to recognise these are people's lives & peoples time we are dealing with. I would like it if the government took a similar approach to Germany and made a system that continually improves itself regardless of where it stands in regards to other countries' systems.


Thank you for reading


To donate to support Let's Help please visit:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/coronavirusvolunteersdublin-x-soap-for-direct-prov or www.patreon.com/letshelpdirectprovision


Written by Maureen Kenny

Edited by Louisamay Hanrahan



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