The number of adults from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) acquiring Irish citizenship is doubling year-on-year, according to the latest figures.

More than 20,000 adults from outside the EEA became naturalised Irish citizens during 2012, the latest year for which figures are available, according to a report published this morning by Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald.

The number of non-EEA adults who acquired citizenship through naturalisation almost doubled between 2010 and 2011 and more than doubled again between 2011 and 2012.

Between 2005, when records began, and the end of 2012, almost 54,700 non-EEA adults acquired Irish citizenship.

The report's author, Dr Frances McGinnity said: "The very significant increase in the numbers applying for, and gaining, citizenship indicates progress towards the fuller integration of immigrants in Ireland." 

"Notwithstanding the considerable progress made, challenges remain for Ireland in integrating its large numbers of new immigrants," she added.

At the start of 2013 the unemployment rate was around 18% among non-Irish nationals, compared to just over 13% for Irish nationals.

Immigrants were hit harder during the economic crisis and there is little evidence to suggest that they have benefited from the first stirrings of recovery in the Irish labour market, according to the report.

The youth unemployment rate (33%) was also higher for non-Irish nationals than for Irish nationals (25%).