Spirasi (Spiritan Asylum Services initiative) was set up in 1999 by the Spiritans in response to the rapidly evolving migration and asylum situation in Ireland.
Change of Focus
The organisation initially provided a welcome and some English language classes to vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees. On discovering that many of those attending classes were severely traumatised the focus quickly became the provision of specialist services to victims of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Numbers seen by Spirasi
In its 20-year history, Spirasi has now offered rehabilitation services to over 5,000 victims of torture. It continues to offer English Language classes and has seen over 2,000 students pass through its doors since 1999.
United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)
In 1999 Ireland signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) which, in 2000, was ratified through the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act.
What is required of each State under UNCAT
Article 14 of UNCAT affirms that each state must provide for “as full a rehabilitation as possible” for victims of torture within their jurisdiction. This applies to all persons, regardless of residency status. In December 2012 the Committee Against Torture published a General Comment on Article 14 stating that “The obligation to provide rehabilitation for victims of torture does not relate to the available resources of States parties and may not be postponed”. Spirasi is the primary organization in Ireland implementing the obligations of the Irish State under Article 14.
Refugee Crisis and the War in Syria
In September 2015, the Irish Government, under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), committed to accepting 4,000 refugees from Syria. Some 2,622 Syrians were to be taken in under the EU relocation scheme from Italy and Greece, and 780 from Lebanon under the refugee resettlement programme.
By the end of 2018, 2,152 asylum seekers and refugees had been admitted to Ireland and 1,832 people have been resettled in communities across Ireland constituting 85% of the people that have arrived under Relocation or Resettlement.
To date, 41 unaccompanied minors under the Calais Special Project have been welcomed to Ireland and there has been a pledge to accept up to 36 unaccompanied minors from Greece this year "in a gesture of solidarity". Ireland has also offered to take five unaccompanied minors from Malta as part of the most recent solidarity effort for migrants disembarked in Malta. It is expected that the process of relocation and resettlement continue at least through to the end of 2019.
Irish Protection Office (IPO) – Statistics for 2018
Apart from the IRPP, the number of people arriving through our ports seeking protection in Ireland in 2018 increased by just over 25%, from 2,926 in 2017 to 3,673 in 2018.
Context - Present Day
This is Ireland and world context in which Spirasi works. Year on year since 2013, where 946 people sought protection, to 2018 where 3673 people sought protection, there has been a steady increase in the number of people looking for asylum in Ireland.
Studies suggest that as many as 50% of asylum seekers have been tortured. Spirasi expects to see 10% of this population in any one year. In 2018 we had 360 referrals.
The rising numbers have a direct impact on Spirasi and our ability to provide a quality service. We continue to advocate for more resources to deal with the ever-increasing demand for our services.