Annual report on migration and asylum 2021: Ireland

December 15, 2022
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The Annual Report on Migration and Asylum 2021: Ireland provides an overview of trends, policy and operational developments and significant debates in the area of migration that occurred during 2021 in Ireland.

Some important developments in 2021 included:

  • The Department of Justice published its Statement of Strategy 2021-2023, which includes goals towards significant reforms of the immigration system, including a fully digital immigration service, the elimination of processing backlogs and strategic policy and legislative proposals to improve the fairness and efficiency of the system.
  • A White Paper to End Direct Provision and Establish a New International Protection Support Service was published in February 2021, outlining a new model to provide accommodation and supports to persons in the international protection system. It proposes a model based on the principles of respect for human rights, integration from day one and community engagement. A staff team, a programme board and an independent monitoring board were established to implement and oversee the implementation. An End-to-End Review of the International Protection Process was also published which made recommendations to reduce the processing time for international protection applications.
  • In December 2021, the Department of Justice announced a scheme to regularise long-term undocumented migrants and their families living in Ireland. Applicants had to have lived undocumented for four years in the State, or three years for those with children to qualify. A parallel process was included within the scheme to allow international protection applicants who have an outstanding application for international protection and have been in the process for a minimum of two years to apply.
  • Public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic continued to have significant impacts on migration in 2021, with multiple administrative changes adopted throughout the year, affecting the validity of permits, return, the issuing of negative decisions for international protection applicants, amongst others.


Key figures for 2021:

  • Immigration to Ireland significantly increased in the year to April 2022 compared with previous years, with an estimated 120,700 immigrants, an 85% increase from the year to April 2021, according to CSO estimates. Emigration remained more stable, with 59,600 emigrants, a 10.6% increase in the year to April 2022 compared with the previous year. This translates to a net immigration of 61,100, the highest since 2008.
  • In 2021, there was a small increase in first-residence permits issued compared with 2020, with 34,935 first-residence permits, still significantly below 2019. Of these, 42% were issued for education, 23% for employment and 7% for family reasons.
  • In 2021, 16,275 employment permits were issued, similar to 2020. India was the most common country of origin, representing 40% of employment permits, followed by Brazil and Pakistan. Health and social work was the largest sector granted employment permits (36%), followed by information and communication (28%).
  • A total of 2,649 applications for international protection were made in Ireland in 2021, an increase from 2020, which had seen a large drop from 2019. Applications for international protection in Ireland accounted for 0.42% of the EU total. The top three countries of origin were Nigeria, Georgia and Somalia.
  • In 2021, 468 persons were resettled, an increase from 2020 but still significantly lower than 2019. The majority of those resettled were from Afghanistan.
  • A total of 152 unaccompanied minors were referred to Tusla in 2021, with 98 placed in care. 54 applicants for international protection were classified as unaccompanied minors, the highest number in the last 10 years.
  • There were 11,970 applications for Irish citizenship in 2021 and 9,783 citizenship certificates were issued. This indicates a significantly higher number of total decisions made compared with previous years, with a 91% increase from 2020.
  • Thirty-four non-EEA citizens were identified as victims of human trafficking in Ireland in 2021. A further ten EEA nationals were identified as victims of human trafficking.
  • 3,725 people were refused leave to land in 2021, according to rounded Eurostat data, a slight increase from 2020. The top nationalities refused leave to land in 2021 were Eritrean, Syrian and Somali.
  • According to Eurostat data, 160 persons were ordered to leave in 2021, compared with 795 in 2020 and 2,535 in 2019. This reflects the impact of travel restrictions and the Minister of Justice’s decision to only deport persons in very restricted circumstances in the context of the pandemic. According to rounded Eurostat data, 40 people were subject to forced returns, and 125 returned voluntarily.