More than 40% of asylum seekers living in direct provision in Ireland are spending two or more years in accommodation centres.

Figures obtained by RTÉ News show that 17% - or 1,047 - of people have spent between two and three years in direct accommodation.

A total of 748 have spent up to four years, and almost 3% have been living in direct provision accommodation centres for seven years or more.

Currently, there are a total of 5,928 people, including almost 2,000 children, living in direct provision accommodation in the country.

That figure has been steadily climbing - in September there were 5,744 and in October 5,848.

The numbers have also been increasing year on year over the past three years. In 2016, there were 4,696 people living in direct provision and 5,096 in 2017.

The capacity of Ireland's direct provision accommodation centres is 6,093 - so the system is currently near full capacity.

Just over 5,000 of those in the system currently have live applications for refugee status.

The number of people granted refugee status in Ireland has almost doubled over the past four years.

This year, just over 900 people received the status. That is up from 769 in 2017, 725 in 2016, and 547 in 2015.

Read more:
Seeking Asylum in Ireland
Asylum seekers' work ban declared unconstitutional

Third-level education scheme for asylum seekers stalls
Special report: Lives in Direct Provision

The Irish Refugee Council has said one of the reasons for such long waiting times is due to the introduction of the International Protection Act last year, which caused a number of asylum applications to be brought back to the start of the process.

CEO of the IRC Nick Henderson said that for waiting times to be reduced, the International Protection Office needs to be given more resources.

He also pointed out that the 80-page application form that has to be filled out by hand by the applicant is quite a "difficult process".

The Department of Justice said anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in direct provision is likely to be challenging the decision made on their asylum application in the courts.

It says priority is given to applicants from countries such as Syria, Eritrea and Iraq and to especially vulnerable applicants such as unaccompanied children.

In relation to the commencement of the International Protection Act it says that the process has become more streamlined. However, it says the level of investigation that caseworkers must undertake is more comprehensive and complex and consequently more time-consuming.

The Department said it acknowledges that many applicants are waiting too long to have their case decided.

It says the aim is to continue to reduce waiting times and that the International Protection Office plans to make over 3,500 decisions this year compared to 1,900 in 2017.

It also points out that there is a number of people who have been granted status still living in Direct Provision and that a number of measures are in train to find suitable accommodation for them to transition out of the centres.