Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented persons that have been here for more than seven years; the extent to which consideration might be given to examining their cases with a view to offering stamp 4 status as a path to naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6024/18]
276. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented persons currently here for more than ten years that have for one reason or another been refused long term residency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6025/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 275 and 276 together.
Can I say at the outset, that my Department has no information regarding the number of undocumented persons that are in the State as this category of persons choose to come and remain illegally in the State. In relation to persons granted refugee status, under the International Protection Act 2015 they are given permission to reside in the State for a period of three years and are eligible to apply for citizenship after 3 years. All those with refugee status are granted a Stamp 4 immigration permission which includes full access to the labour market and State services.
At the end of January 2018 there was a total of 248 persons pending in the protection system for more than seven years at either first or appeal stage, including failed asylum seekers awaiting a consideration of an intention to deport or a grant of leave to remain. To put this figure in context, nearly 22,000 persons have applied for asylum over the past 10 years. These cases tend to be complex in nature and are often the subject of multiple appeals including judicial reviews. There can also be complex family situations where one family member may be preventing the finalising of the applications for the entire family.
Figures of asylum applications that are over 10 years old and yet to reach a final determination are not readily available and it would require staff resources to be diverted from processing of cases which must take priority. However, it can be assumed that the figure is significantly less than the number in the system for 7 years or more.
Successive Ministers have informed the House that there are no plans to introduce a general regularisation scheme for those who are currently illegally resident in the State. I have outlined the rationale for this in response to PQ Number 44241/17 of 17th October last. With regard to International Protection applications, the aim of the single procedure introduced in the International Protection Act 2015 is to speed up the processing of cases. This will be the focus of the International Protection bodies in the coming period.