Dáil Éireann - Volume 446 - 20 October, 1994

Written Answers. - Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

[441] 52. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Justice the most recent figures relating to the number of refugees and asylum seekers currently in Ireland; where they have come from and where they are currently living throughout the country; the status of their medical and psychological well-being; if she will give details of any facility provided by the State for traumatised refugees and asylum seekers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1740/94]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): Having regard to the fact that the Deputy has tabled a similar parliamentary question for answer today by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has responsibility for the admission of refugees into the State in accordance with specific Government decisions, I take it that the Deputy's question to me is confined to persons who have sought asylum recently at our borders or in the territory of the State in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention of 1951 relating to the status of refugees and the 1967 New York Protocol. The number of such applications to date this year is 293. One applicant has been refused recognition as a refugee. Twelve applicants subsequently withdrew their applications and the remainder are being considered in accordance with the provisions of the Convention and in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

With regard to the nationalities of the applicants, it has not been the practice in the past to disclose such information having regard to the general and understandable desire on the part of individual applicants to ensure that an application for recognition as a refugee is processed in confidence. As well as that, because the overall numbers of applicants in recent years have been small, the view has been that it would be relatively easy in specific cases to identify particular individuals if nationality [442] statistics were provided. Such identification could have serious implications, particularly if members of an applicant's family are still in the country of origin. However, the number of applications this year shows a significant increase over previous years and I think it is no secret that the increase is due primarily to the large number of applications by Cuban nationals, of which there are 199. On balance, I am in favour at this time of keeping the nationalities of refugees and applicants for asylum confidential, although I would be prepared to reconsider the matter if it can be shown that there is some particular benefit to be gained from disclosing such information which would outweigh what I consider is a realistic concern on behalf of applicants.

As regards the location of applicants, the position is that the majority of them are living in the Dublin and Ennis areas where, having regard to the specific information sought in the final part of the Deputy's question, health facilities are provided as necessary.