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Debunked: No, ‘100,000 unvetted foreign nationals’ did not receive free accommodation in a year

Figures for people applying for asylum in Ireland are publicly available… and not nearly that high.

A CLAIM ONLINE that “approximately 100,000 unvetted foreign nationals” received free accommodation in Ireland in 2021 is untrue, by a huge margin. Even if we assume that the writer of the claim had meant 2022 — the year that the Russian invasion of Ukraine began — this figure would still not be correct.

Moreover, the term “unvetted”, which has commonly been used to describe immigrants in recent times, is inappropriate. A “SIS II” check is carried out on all people entering the state to identify missing or wanted people, and the asylum process is, in part, a background check.

The claim was made in the description of a Facebook video viewed more than 115,000 times. The video features people shouting questions, such as “why are you here?” at Ukrainian refugees and other asylum seekers in residential areas in Ireland. One of the clips, filmed by someone from their car, includes them stopping an asylum seeker who was walking on a footpath to say they are “not allowed” here.

The Journal has previously debunked one of the clips shown in the video.

The claim in this latest video reads: “Approximately 100,000 unvetted foreign nationals received free accommodation in Ireland in 2021 alone.”

The wording used is misleading, and the figure asserted is false.


It is misleading to describe people who have formally sought international protection in Ireland as being “unvetted”.

The term vetting in Ireland often refers to Garda vetting, which is a requirement for some jobs involving security or working with children.

As a result of this vetting, a report is made about an individual that includes any previous convictions, any ongoing prosecutions, and other information available that indicates that they could cause children or vulnerable people to come to harm.

It is rare for people whose work would not involve contact with children or vulnerable persons to need to undergo such vetting.

While this garda procedure is not carried out for asylum seekers as standard, a check is made for each of them on the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) — described as “the largest information system for public security in Europe”.

“Every person that enters the state will go through a SIS check,” a spokesperson for the Department of Justice told The Journal. “SIS II is a centralised secure database used by European countries for maintaining information (alerts) related to border security and law enforcement.

“The integration of SIS II into national systems means that automatic alerts are generated in real-time in instances where, for example, a Garda member or Immigration Officer encounters a person who is wanted or has been involved in a serious crime in another jurisdiction.”

People applying for asylum then go through a detailed application process, which involves a photo and fingerprints being taken of the applicant.

During this process, an applicant can be arrested without warrant if they are suspected of, among other things, posing a threat to public order or security; committing a serious crime outside the state; or destroying or forging travel documents, as well as not making “reasonable efforts” to prove their identity.

“The establishment of an applicant’s identity and nationality is an important feature of every immigration process,” the Department of Justice told The Journal. “This is especially so in the context of persons who enter the Irish State for the purposes of making a claim for international protection.

“Any and all criminal convictions are considered when processing an international protection application, including violent crime.”

A person who had been through the International Protection process, and successfully received refugee status in Ireland, told The Journal that the process involves applicants being questioned repeatedly and thoroughly.

While an interview is held when the applicant first applies for asylum, the majority of the questioning takes place at a later interview, after applicants are put into direct provision.

Some questions focus on how the applicant has entered the country, and whether people smuggling or other crimes were involved. Our source also said applicants are asked if they have a criminal history, but noted that it would be extremely difficult to verify this for people who had fled a warzone, or a country in chaos.

The figures

However, even if we put to the side that most asylum seekers have undergone some form of “vetting”, the number given in the claim — “Approximately 100,000 unvetted foreign nationals received free accommodation in Ireland in 2021 alone” — is wide of the mark.

While the immigration numbers into the country in 2021 should be counted in the tens of thousands, about half of this figure is Irish people returning. 

Of those from other countries, the vast majority of these are not seeking International Protection and would not be entitled to state aid for housing.

The number of asylum seeker applications in 2021 was 2,649.

While some asylum seekers from 2020 (1,566 applicants), or 2019 (4,781 applicants),  may have still be in receipt of housing in 2021, there is no way these add up to the 100,000 figure made in the claim.

However, it is likely that the person making the claim had made a mistake and meant to write “2022”, when there was a huge influx of Ukrainian refugees into Ireland, as well as other asylum seekers.

As of 23 January 2023, Ukrainians who had fled to Ireland numbered 66,000, according to a Dáil response given by the Minister of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. However, as some of these arranged their own accommodation, those who sought “accommodation from The State” numbered slightly more than 53,500.

While 2022 did see a higher number of other asylum seekers too (13,651 applicants), adding this to the number of refugees from Ukraine who sought housing does not add up close to 100,000. Even if you were to count every applicant for international protection for every year back to 2019 as having received housing in 2022 (which was not the case), this summation would still be tens of thousands short of the figure given in the claim.


False. It is misleading to claim that people going through the asylum process in Ireland are “unvetted”. Regardless of that, 100,000 asylum seekers were not given “free accommodation” in Ireland in 2021, or in 2022.

The Journal’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.