Ireland received more asylum applications per head of population last year than the UK. According to figures released last week, Ireland received 2,690 applications for asylum in 2009, the equivalent of 605 per million of the population. The UK received 30,290 applications, which represents 490 per million of UK inhabitants.
Overall Ireland ranks in the top half of the 27 EU countries despite being the furthest EU state from Africa and the Far East, which generate the most asylum applications to Europe.
On a per capita basis, Ireland receives more applications than Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal and is not that far behind other richer European countries such as Denmark and France.
The largest number of applications to Ireland come from Nigeria, with 21% of all applications, followed by Pakistan (10%) and China (7%) Ireland is the only country among the EU 27 that receives asylum applications from China.
The small states of Malta and Cyprus get the largest number of applications on a per capita basis. Malta receives 5,765 per million and Cyprus 3,345 – 10 times and six times the EU average.
Given their location, the two southern Mediterranean islands have long being considered the gateway to Europe, with asylum seekers tending to move later to the richer north European states.
Ireland rejected around three out of five applications, according to the Eurostat survey. This is close to the EU average.
Of over 4,000 applications processed in Ireland last year, asylum was granted in 1,030 cases. Of those, 885 were granted for humanitarian reasons while 105 were given refugee status and 40 were granted 'subsidiary protection'.
In the UK, of over 30,000 applications processed last year, 8,350 or 27% were granted and 22,700 or 73% were rejected.
Greece, which is currently in the eye of the storm for the survival of the euro, rejected almost every application for asylum in the Mediterranean country.
Of 14,350 applications, Greece granted asylum to just 165, a little over 1%.