‘Out Of 500 Cases, I Let Two People In’


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Former Member of Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Seán Deegan

Seán Deegan is a former Member of Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Asylum seekers appeal for protection from the Refugee Appeals Tribunal after their initial application for refugee status is denied.

Mr Deegan spoke to RTE journalist Brian O’Connell during a Direct Provision special report on Prime Time last night.

I would have dealt with, I’d say, about, probably, roughly in around 500 cases. I let in two people in six years. Two ladies, one from Moldova and one from Nigeria. The majority of the cases were not refugees, within the meaning of the statute, or within the meaning of the United Nation’s declaration on refugees, that was quite obvious.”

“It is clear that the majority of people were actually trafficked into this country and then that these people obviously had to have money to get this far. And one’s to surmise that the real refugees are left back at home. Those who can’t afford to pay the trafficker.”

In 2013, Mr Deegan wrote a letter to the Irish Times after columnist Breda O’Brien wrote an article appealing for reform of the direct provision system.

Mr Deegan wrote:


Breda O’Brien (“Inhumane asylum seeker system needs radical reform“, Opinion, March 23rd) states, “Our current system also prevents asylum seekers from finding work, and forces them to depend on the meagre bounty of the State. One man said to me that if you had worked in your own country, not even being allowed to apply for a job is like torture.”

If this gentleman she refers to had a job in his own country, why is he looking for the protection of this State – protection that he is claiming, as an asylum seeker, is not available to him in his home country, for such is what a real refugee is.

This man, clearly, is an economic migrant and not a refugee, similar to the undocumented Irish in the US.
– Yours, etc,
Sean Deegan


Watch Prime Time in full here

107 thoughts on “‘Out Of 500 Cases, I Let Two People In’

  1. ollie

    He speaks the truth. Ask any African taxi driver why they came to Ireland, 100% will tell you for money.
    Nigerians send 500,000,000 from Ireland to Nigeria every year, that’s €26,000 for each of the 17,642 Nigerian nationals in Ireland, including children.
    We are suckers.

    1. jon

      i didn’t realise that driving a taxi in dublin and getting paid for it, while black, constituted fraud. thanks for putting us all straight.

    2. Casey

      Africa is a big place, care to be more specific? Your statement is the equivalent to saying “every European taxi driver in Ethiopia is sending home £27,000 a year to Europe.

      I think your stats are complete cock and bull … think rationally about it for a minute…can you imagine the conditions you would have to live in (In Dublin) to have £27,000 a year to send ANYWHERE??

      1. ReproBertie

        “Nigerian migrants here are now sending nearly half-a-billion euro back home each year. World Bank figures reveal that €468m in ‘remittances’ was sent from Ireland to Nigeria in 2011.

        That’s an average of more than €26,000 for each of the 17,642 Nigerian nationals in Ireland, including children.

        This is far in excess of the sums sent home by Poles from Ireland. They sent €174m, even though there are more than 122,000 Polish people in the country.”
        Irish Independent, May 19, 2013

        1. Don Pidgeoni

          Migrants. Nothing in there about refugees. Love the little dig in that article from Collins though “It raises a number of questions. There may be legitimate and valid reason for the extremely large amounts of money being sent from Ireland to Nigeria, compared with the amounts sent by other nationalities. On the face of it, it has to be questioned. I will be asking the minister to investigate and find out why.””

          They can’t win can they? Don’t work and they are scroungers, work and they must be up to no good to send that amount of money back home because you know…

    3. Mick Flavin

      This man has it!
      Freeze all migration now. Repatriate all people to the land of their birth (In the case of citizens of states now defunct, a temporary camp can be set up somewhere until the situation is regularised).
      Then, methodically examining DNA evidence, move populations piecemeal to the likely position of their ancestors before the last ice age. This is all a precursor to a final great shift back to Africa for the whole damn lot of us. That’ll show us.

      1. Mani

        If that happens Mick, you may need to reconsider the ‘minstrel’ portion of your act.

      2. Joe the Lion

        Repatriate all Longford folks lest their subhuman genes nullify progress in other regions

    4. Mr. T.

      You’re talking rubbish Ollie. In fact, you sound like a bitter white fat middle Irish taxi driver who thought he had it good in the 90s with the cartel on licenses until the common market finally extended to unkept Toyota Carinas stinking of cigarette smoke.

  2. jon

    kind of incredible that “wanting to get out of a shit, dangerous country and have a vaguely decent quality of life for oneself and one’s children” somehow does not qualify as a good enough reason to want to enter ireland.

    1. Rowsdower

      It doesn’t.

      If your house is better than mine, should I be allowed to stay in it?

      1. jon

        erm . . . we’re not talking about individuals’ residences.

        ireland is not so stuffed to bursting at the seams that it cannot afford to let in a couple of hundred people from other parts of the world.

        1. Rowsdower

          I was using a metaphor.

          I’m sure your house isn’t so bursting that you cant afford to let someone else in.

          1. Kieran NYC

            Will you host all the Irish who get kicked out of the States based on that rational?

            Or are we ok cuz we’re not black?

          2. Joe the Lion

            I’m sure if they found out you were from Cork they’d have you in Rikers Island in no time

        1. Clampers Outside!

          Use your mouse scroller… here, place hand on mouse, raise index finger, bend in, point tip of finger down to mouse roller and roll away from yourself. Be careful not to scroll too far, or you’ll miss ‘this’.

          You’re welcome.

    2. Rob_G

      I can also see why people would want to come and live in Ireland, but should we allow each of the tens of millions of people who live in sub-saharan Africa to come and live here, so? There has to be some controls in place.

      1. Don Pidgeoni

        I love that its either no one gets in or tens of millions of people get in. No in between.

        1. Rowsdower

          I love when people deliberately misread something and use their own ignorance as an argument.

          1. Rob_G

            I said nothing of the sort(?)

            I’m not saying that no-one from Nigeria should be allowed live in Ireland; I’m suggesting that the Govt. shouldn’t base its immigration policy on whether the person ‘really wants to’ live here, as some other posters seem to be suggesting.

          2. Shanti

            Do you even knew what our immigration policies are? Because you’re harping on there about migrants for a start when the topic was asylum seekers. These are two very different things.
            Migrants come here on visas, same way the Irish go to the States, Canada and Australia on them. You need to have work lined up as well as the means to support yourself, and a way of getting home – you won’t be entitled to any sort of welfare because you won’t have the stamps for a start. When someone sneaks in or overstay their visa they are known as “undocumented migrants”.

            Asylum seekers are people fleeing from persecution in their home countries – we reject something like 90% or more of those who seek asylum here, whereas most other EU nations accept at least 20% of the people seeking asylum there.

            No asylum seeker can work until they have had their application for refugee status accepted and upheld, and that’s less than 10% of applicants.

            The migrants you are whinging about came here by exactly the same means Irish people emigrated in the past few years – something tells me you wouldn’t take too kindly to Americans, Canadians and Australians saying the kind of thing you’ve been spouting here about the Irish..

  3. doncolleone

    Confused who we are supposed to be hating here. Your man for doing his job? Breda for the garbled sentence? Please expand.

  4. Advertising On Police Cars

    If we were serious about refugees we would ban Nigerians and allow all those fleeing Syria or being picked up from LE Eithne etc to come in.

  5. phil

    We wouldn’t have a refugee crisis, if somehow we could make it clear to asylum seekers that we are one of the most racist, xenophobic, greedy, morally corrupt, hypocritical, exasperating people in Europe.

    We need to stop sending out decent people like out presidents abroad, they are creating a false impression of who we are …

    And yes I am so disappointed with my of country that I am trying to leave, certainly wouldn’t like to bring kids up here. I am even considering sub Sahara Africa, I just hope there isn’t too much knowlage about Ireland where I land

    1. Mani

      Well, we’re clearly melodramatic and borderline retarded if your comment is anything to go by. I hope you find this fabled land of milk and honey, where the people are friendly and non covetous. I suspect it doesn’t exist, however have you considered trying heroin?

    2. Paolo

      Hyperbole much? The nice Nigerian taxi driver who drove me home last night told me that he sees Ireland as a “paradise”. He has been here 10 years and he still thinks that. The Brazilian girl who I was chatting to in the pub before that said she loves it here because she can go out alone and be reasonably confident that she will not be mugged, raped or killed.

      If you hate the place so much then please please leave.

      1. jon

        “The nice Nigerian taxi driver who drove me home last night told me that he sees Ireland as a “paradise”.”

        ah yes, where have we heard this one before . . .

  6. Nially

    How on earth does one get to be a member of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal with such an idiotic understanding of what an asylum seeker is? “If he had a job then he clearly isn’t one” – yeah, ’cause there’s absolutely no cases of political or religious persecution forcing someone to flee their jobs, homes and lives. None whatsoever.

    1. Rowsdower

      That’s not even close to what he said.

      Although I do agree that someone has an idiotic understanding of what an asylum seeker is.

      1. Nially

        That’s exactly what he said.

        “If this gentleman she refers to had a job in his own country, why is he looking for the protection of this State – protection that he is claiming, as an asylum seeker, is not available to him in his home country, for such is what a real refugee is.

        This man, clearly, is an economic migrant and not a refugee”

        His argument goes “He had a job, therefore he must have had legal protection in his own country, therefore he must be an economic migrant”. There’s nothing there to misread. What’s your interpretation of what he’s saying in that letter?

        1. Rowsdower

          You should look up the definition of exactly. You clearly have difficulties with its meaning.

          1. Nially

            And you have a loose interpretation of “not even close”, and are pretty clearly dodging my question. How else would you interpret his letter?

        2. Paolo

          Based on the information in the both letter extracts, the man IS an economic migrant because there is no mention of persecution. You cannot assume that someone is persecuted.

          1. Nially

            There’s no mention of persecution in the letter, no, but given that he’s seeking asylum, we can assume that he’s at the very least claiming that he’s fleeing some kind of violence/persecution/etc.

            Irrespective of the legitimacy of his specific claim (for which we’d need a lot more information than is contained in this article), making the assumption that his previous employment means he definitionally cannot be an asylum seeker is incredibly stupid, and really worrying from someone who turned away hundreds of people seeking asylum.

          2. scottser

            if they person referred to is working, he may have been a trade unionist or labour organiser, which in some countries would be enough to get you killed. we don’t know enough about this case to determine if this person was an economic migrant or fleeing persecution.

          3. Shanti

            OK, I can’t believe I’m about to defend something that Breda O Brien wrote, but here goes..
            The woman was talking about someone who has fled here – for all we know they were a farmer, driven from their land – so, that person had a job, they worked hard, and then they sit in Direct Provision on their ass for several years because they *can’t* work.. That would be a shock to the system.

  7. Starina

    wow. so being employed means you are exempt from political persecution, torture and death? amazing. amnesty should just employ everyone! problem solved!

    …also, a lot of people use every penny they have (and some borrowed) to pay the trafficker, and are penniless when they arrive. those with money would surely travel in a way where they would be less likely to die or be assaulted.

    1. Joe the Lion

      I’m so glad all our best people haven’t left yet and get to put in a lifetime of service to the country in places like the refugee appeals tribunal

  8. Roos Demol

    These comments are sickening, you probably each have someone abroad in your family. Those Irish migrants are definitely all economic refugees. Why don’t you call them all home? What kind of rubbish is this.
    Has any of you ever taken the initiative to talk to one of the asylum seekers? Have you ever tried to imagine what it’s like to live in a war-torn country, or to live in total poverty?
    I am sick and tired of peiple like you.
    My family home is now inhabited by a family from Cork. maybe I should ask threm to leave and go back to where they came from???
    Shame on all of you!

    1. Rowsdower

      Does anyone here actually know what an Asylum Seeker is?

      That there is a difference between Asylum seekers and Economic refugees?

      1. Shanti

        It’s pretty obvious many people *don’t* know what the difference is.

        An economic migrant still has the title of “migrant” That indicates that they are moving for monetary reasons.

        When you emigrate, you become an “immigrant”, this status means that you satisfied your visa criteria and have been given leave to stay in the country for a specified period of time.

        Those who sneak in or overstay their visa are known as “undocumented migrants”

        Asylum seekers are people who are seeking refugee status, which is a separate thing from migration. These people are fleeing persecution in their home countries. They will have to satisfy the Refugee criteria in order to be granted this status at which point they are permitted to become citizens. Until then they remain asylum seekers and remain in Direct Provision on their €19 per week. less if they’re children.

        All of this information is available on the citizens information website. I don’t get why people remain so confused about these things..

      2. Kieran NYC

        Funny how you show up when the topic is “kick the black migrants out”.

        The Journal too busy?

    2. Jonotti

      I knew someone who emigrated abroad and followed all of the stringent visa protocols of their new home. They were there for a better life. After three years their visa ran out and they had to leave which they did without fuss. So what was your point?

    3. polly

      roos, your argument is stupid, the Irish never went to another country to claim asylum or refugee status, they went as economic migrants, looking for work, and back in the previous century they were slaves, in some of the countries they made their way too. They did then and still do, WORK, when they arrive in the countries of their destinations, They were not handed FREE HOUSES, FREE HEALTH CARE, FREE WELFARE NOR WERE THEY EDUCATED, if you want to compare, they MAKE WHAT’S COME HERE A RIGHT BUNCH OF SPONGERS, LOOKING FOR A FREE RIDE, WHILE OUR OWN HAVE EMIGRATED TO FIND WORK.

  9. Mr. T.

    He is wrong to assume that someone who already has a job in their own country is not a genuine refugee. It actually contradicts his point.

    Genuine refugees are fleeing political or religious persecution. It has nothing to do with jobs. Many are very wealthy people.

    I do agree though, that most asylum seekers are not genuine refugees. But with Africa and the Middle East being destabilized, it’s an inevitable outcome that people will try to flee. It’s human nature to seek a better life.

      1. drbotulism

        It doesn’t, jesus, it doesn’t, that’s the point. you can’t assume the person is or is not a refugee from the information given, yet he’s quite decisive still. so a judge, who is asked to weigh the balance of people’s live (from countries he likely has little familiarity with) in a careful and reasonable way has demonstrated for us how quick he is to assume someone is an economic migrant rather than a refugee with less than anecdotal evidence to go on. If he is so willing to make that judgment based on one line, without hearing any of the supporting narrative about political, religious or sexual persecution that might lead that one person to be a refugee, then he is making careless and callous a priori conclusions about refugee status.

        1. Joe the Lion

          All they usually have is anecdotal evidence

          How else can you evaluate undocumented folks with no papers or worldly belongings?

          1. drbotulism

            I don’t think you got my point. The point is that this judge doesn’t even feel the need to evaluate their interview or pamphlet responses (I guess you’re calling that anecdotal) because here, he is presented with almost literally no information, and still feels comfortable making a ruling. He could be slightly more prudent and say, “Well, this might make me ask more questions about their job status and how it was secured, etc.” but he’s already decided that the guy is an economic refugee, without reading ANYTHING but that one anonymous mention of having a job.

          2. Joe the Lion

            I got your position. Not to defend this guy I’m making a seperate point that the only available process in most cases is a subjective one.

  10. Keith

    Is there a single long-term Irish family that hasn’t benefitted from economic migration? What was my grandfather doing in Coventry in the late 40s if not that? What about my aunt who moved to Toronto? Or my wife’s family in LA? Or my aunt in London? Should we exclude people from Africa because that was fine then but it isn’t now? Why isn’t it now? Are we full up? I’m pretty sure we’re not, given we have a smaller island-wide population than we did in 1840.

    Is it because it causes trouble for taxi-drivers? That’s not the consequence of the immigrants so much as the nature of new very-deregulated taxi market.

    That doesn’t even address the question of the arbitrary nature of direct provision centres, the way that people can be moved from centre to centre if it suits the government or the connections between government and those who run the centres (where people are treated like voting machines, as a means to raise cash for the landlords).

    1. ollie

      If I had to flee my country under threat of persecution, I’d be happy to live safely in a direct provision centre until I had my asylum claim processed. Wouldn’t you?

      1. Keith

        No, better that I be allowed to work and contribute to the country I’m in. Especially given the indefinite time I’ll be in the direct provision centre and the quality of the accommodation in the centre.

    2. Paolo

      I wouldn’t expect to be allowed to go to the U.S. and work without going through the defined procedures for gaining entry. If you arrive in a country without a visa and expect to be welcomed with open arms then you should prepare yourself to be disappointed.

      1. Keith

        Why? Why do you think it has to be that way? It didn’t in the past, what’s changed now?

      2. Shanti

        That’s for immigrants. Asylum Seekers are not the same thing.
        You are well within your rights to apply to live and work abroad, that is what visas are for. If you lived somewhere like, I dunno, anywhere ISIS are going around chopping heads off and you legged it in a hurrry to keep your family safe because you heard them coming, you wouldn’t have time to apply for a visa – bit you definitely have a reason to get out of there.

        If you were LGBT in Saudi or Uganda and got outed, you might have to go on the run.

        When the Turks invaded northern Cyprus the people left what they were doing and headed for the Troodos mountains – you can still see the now rags hanging from washing lines that were there from the 70s.
        Refugees and Immigrants are two separate things.

      3. Kieran NYC

        Yeah sure. So you’d be happy to see all the illegal Irish rounded up into camps and kept without trial for 9 years?

        F- off. You’d be outraged.

    3. Jonotti

      I’ve a cousin that lived in America for years without the proper visa. They were eventually turfed out amd banned for life. Proper order.

  11. Clampers Outside!

    It is the argument of an absolute moron who says “these people obviously had to have money to get this far” when speaking of immigrants….. it’s far to open ended a comment for someone purporting to be working professionally with these people.

  12. tonyc

    I think the majority of reasonable Irish People would have no problem allowing genuine refugees , people who are persecuted for religious or other reasons into our country. The problem is that quite a lot of the people who apply for refugee status are really economic migrants and will invent stories in order to gain residency. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to judge who is and is not genuine, so there should be a right of appeal ( one appeal only) and this decision should be final and should be enforced regardless of race, gender , family status etc.

    1. Casey

      Yep and send back all the Irish scattered all over the world whose stories just are not good enough too.

      Wait for the moaning that will take place when that happens, oh mer gawd, an experienced, well-travelled, educated articulate workforce without the poisonous little Islander attitudes of SOME of those that have never been off the rain-sodden rock we call home.

      Then you really will have to fear that “they” are after your jobs.

      Oh and Donald Trump called, he says keep up the good work.

        1. Shanti

          Are you aware of the number of asylum seekers that actually gain refugee status?
          it’s a little over 8%.

          Immigration is a separate matter. This who immigrate do so under much the same rules that would apply to you if you were to emigrate to America.

    1. Nially

      To be fair, our national record on “helping children escaping Hitler” was pretty atrocious unless the families fleeing were willing to convert to Catholicism, so like, maybe he’s just keeping national tradition alive?

  13. Advertising On Police Cars

    Let’s just remove all borders and custom controls, just to keep all of you happy.

  14. Joe

    very interesting to see them numbers, the immigrant council do a fine job keeping them hidden. they really is a large percentage trying to work the system. kinda lost some respect for the immigrant council now, but they care not for the opinions of citizens.

  15. Kieran NYC

    Funny to see how people who talk about “immigration problems” always bring up black people as an example…

    Vomit-inducing excuse for Irish people.

  16. Lilly

    I knew someone who worked with an Immigration attorney in the US and they had various template letters outlining how their clients had to flee from prosecution etc. The problem for someone like Deegan is that it’s next to impossible to tell the genuine cases from the chancers and his experience has left him sceptical. Many of the comments here seem to be arguing for a permissive approach to economic migrants but, as Deegan correctly indicates, that’s a separate issue, and not within his remit.

Comments are closed.