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Identity in Refuge: The Distinct Experiences of Asylum Seekers in Ireland

Identity in Refuge: The Distinct Experiences of Asylum Seekers in Ireland

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Published by: Journal of Undergraduate Research on Jul 08, 2009
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Identity in Refuge
Identity in Refuge: The Distinct Experiencesof Asylum Seekers in Ireland
stacy vanderhurst
since the mid-
1990
s,
Irelandhasexperiencedunprecedentedtransormationintheeconomicboomcommonlyreerredtoasthe“Celticiger.”Withanattractivecorporatetaxpolicy,aloweuro,andalargeavailablehumancapital,theIrisheconomywasconsis-tentlytheastestgrowingintheentireEuropeanUnion,andtodayIrelandranksasoneothewealthiestcountriesintheworld.Withstrongdominanceinthetechandpharmaceuticalindustries,Irelandhasanewaceoprosperityandmodernityatercenturiesoendem-icpovertyandemigrationinthelastingshadowotheFamine.TeCelticigerthusmarkednotonlyrapidgrowthintheeconomicsectorbutalsoacceleratingsocialchange,particularlywitnessedinthedramaticincreaseomigrationintoIreland.In1996,orthefrsttimesinceitsGreatFamineothe1840s,Irelandturnedrombeinganetexportertoanetimporteropeople.By2002,therewereover400,000oreign-bornpeopleusu-allyresidentinIreland,or10%othetotalpopulation.
1
Teseim-migrantswerecomposedoreturningIrishmigrants,asylum-seek-ers,andeconomicmigrantsseekingtostartareshlieinthenewIreland.
 
journal of undergraduate research
 Nationality 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Irish 26,700 24,800 26,300 27,000 17,500 16,900United Kingdom 8,200 8,400 9,000 7,400 6,900 5,900Rest of EU (EU-15) 6,900 8,200 6,500 8,100 6,900 10,600United States 2,500 2,500 3,700 2,700 1,600 1,800Rest of World 4,500 8,600 13,600 21,700 17,700 14,900Total 48,900 52,600 59,000 66,900 50,500 50,100
Figure 
1: Immigration to Ireland Classifed by Region
2
 WiththeIrisheconomyrunningatalmostullemployment,laborimmigrantswerevitaltosustainingitsbreakneckexpansion.Howev-er,thiswelcomehasbeenperhapslessevidentontheground.Amorenegativereactionhasbeendocumentedinthemediaandscholarly worksthathaveidentiednewormsandexpressionsoIrishracismtomeettheincreasedintroductionoraciallydiversemigrants.
3
Animosityhasbeenparticularlytargetedatasylumseek-ers—individualswhohavetraveledtoIrelandindependentlyandap-pliedorreugeestatusatertheirarrival.Europeanlawguaranteesthembasicserviceswhiletheirapplicationsareunderconsideration,sparkingthehostileaccusationso“welarespongers”and“bogusreugees”whoarejustinIrelandtoexploititswealthandgeneros-ity.TeywereoriginallyentitledtothesamewelareclaimsasIrishcitizens,butratesoapplicationcontinuedtoincrease,romewerthan50applicationsin1992,toover10,000peryearin2000-2002andover4,000in2005.
4
oaccommodatethesenumbers,theIrishgovernmentinitiatedaprogramodispersalanddirectprovisionin1999basedonasimilarUKpolicy.Ratherthanprovidemonetarywelarestipendsorasylumseekerstopurchasetheirownood,rent,andothernecessitiesasithaddonepreviously,theIrishgovernmentleasedover50inns,hotels,andhostelsacrossthecountrywheretheseneedscouldbedirectlyprovidedbythestate.MealsarepreparedbyakitchenstafandhousingisassignedbytheReceptionandIntegrationAgency(RIA),withonlya€19weeklystipendperadultand€9perchildto
 
Identity in Refuge
supplementadditionalrequirements,includingclothing,recreation,andtravelexpenses.AccordingtotheIrishReugeeCouncil:
 AttheendoMarch2005,therewere7,280asylumseekersin68directprovisioncenters(4receptionand64accommodationcenters)owhom1,678asylumseekers(21%)hadbeenresidingindirectprovisionorover2years.Aquarter(2,094)othoselivingindirectprovisioncentersareundertheageo4.
5
TeoriginalgoalotheDepartmentoJustice,Immigration,andLawReormwastoprocessallapplicationswithin6monthssonoonewouldresideinthecentersorsuchlengthyperiods.Al-thoughmanyasylumseekersareshuedthroughmultipleaccom-modationcenters,therelativelypermanentnatureotheseorcedcommunitiesmakesthemaninterestingobjectostudy,especially whenconsideredagainstthestrongnationaldiversityoasylumseekerpopulations.InIreland,asylumseekersrepresentmorethan100dierentcountries,includingmanythataretraditionallyethnicallydivided,aactthatotenpartlyexplainswhyindividualsmayfeetheirowncountriestoseekasyluminothers.Accordingly,thegovernment-imposedresidentialcommunitiesshouldnotcasuallybeequated withactualeelingsocommunityacrossveryheterogeneousreugeepopulations.Meanwhile,theemergenceoreugeestudiesinthepastewdecades,markedparticularlybytheestablishmentotheReugeeStudiesCentreatOxordin1982andtheassociated
 Journal of Refu- gee Studies 
oundedin1988,hasocusedlargelyonspecicincidentsoashared“reugeeidentity”amongnationalorethnicgroups,mostotenresidinginregionsneighboringthereugee-producingconfictorcomparablegroupso“programreugees”thathavebeenrelocatedenmasseunderUnitedNationsHighCommissiononReugees(UN-HCR)resettlementplans.Supposedlycomprehensivetheorieshavebeendrawnprimarilyromthesestudiesaswell,producingdepic-tionsoallreugeepopulationsasdiasporiccommunitieswithstrongtransnationalsocialidentitiesandlocalreugeesolidarity.Asappli-

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