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Table 2:Main nationalities of claimants in November 1999 Main nationalities Romania Nigeria Algeria Ex-USSR Poland

Number 1636 1234 340 312 198

%* 29% 22% 6% 6% 4%

*Percentages refer to overall totals

These data show that the average asylum seeker is a young man – most probably a Nigerian or a Romanian – aged between 24 and 35, single and without children. They provide a macro-context for the third part of our research, the social survey.

Survey of People Seeking Asylum The social survey of asylum seekers captured a greater range and richness of data and focussed on people’s own experiences, perceptions and hopes as they sought asylum in Ireland on the eve of the new millennium. Eighty five people took part in face to face interviews between November 1999 and May 2000. Although a representative sample of asylum seekers was not possible , the methodology ensured that the main groups seeking asylum in Ireland were included. On most of the demographic details the interviewees mirrored the profile of claimants in the Eastern Health Board area in November 1999. The fieldwork process was slow and complex as many asylum seekers are reluctant to be interviewed,and while it was taking place,there was a major change in official policy with services for asylum seekers provided separately by the new Directorate for Asylum Support Services which introduced direct provision1 and dispersal.Three contact sources were used – hostels and centres offering emergency accommodation; voluntary agencies and community organisations providing a service or resource to asylum seekers; and a local Health Board office in Dublin city. A semi-structured questionnaire was used with two thirds of the interviews conducted in English. The majority of those interviewed lived in Dublin in emergency accommodation and had arrived within the previous year; two groups from outside Dublin also took part. Reflecting the EHB data, the two largest groupings were from Nigeria and Romania. Almost half were between 19 and 30 and about half were single. Three quarters were male and more than 50% had no family members in Ireland- women were more likely to have children or a partner with them. Persecution by the government, civil conflict and persecution on religious grounds were the most common reasons for leaving their country of origin. 41