Almost 40 per cent of people seeking asylum in Ireland this year arrived through Dublin Airport without any travel documents.
Travel documents are required to board international flights, indicating large numbers of people are losing or destroying their passports before reaching immigration control in Dublin.
Between January and July, 2,915 people flew into Dublin Airport and did not produce travel documents to border management officials, meaning they were refused leave to land.
Of these, 2,232 or 77 per cent then claimed asylum, according to records released following a Freedom of Information request, meaning they were allowed remain pending assessment of their claim.
The Department of Justice advised that a further unknown number may have claimed asylum with Garda immigration officers after being handed over by immigration.
The numbers arriving at the airport with no travel documents are at their highest in years. The figures for the first seven months of 2022 are already 40 per cent higher than all of last year. They are also 225 per cent higher than figures for 2018 and almost double the figures for 2019. The figures do not include people who were under-16.
The number of people claiming asylum after flying to Dublin without a passport represents 40 per cent of the 7,760 who claimed asylum in Ireland between January and July this year.
The total number claiming asylum during that period was up 778 per cent on the figures for the same period last year (claims last year and for 2020 were particularly low due to Covid-19 travel restrictions).
Georgia, Somalia and Algeria
Georgia is the most common country of origin for asylum seekers this year, accounting for 19.5 per cent of applications. The next most common countries are Somalia (14.4 per cent) and Algeria (10.6 per cent).
There are currently about 10,000 asylum seekers in State accommodation, in addition to another 50,000 Ukrainians who have been granted temporary refugee status after fleeing the Russian invasion.
The increased numbers have put significant pressure on resources, with some asylum seekers being forced to sleep rough in recent weeks.
“In terms of the international protection numbers, I do believe that this is probably a more permanent change,” Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said when asked about the increase. She noted that countries across Europe were seeing similar increases.
“I think it’s just a representation of the changing environment, a changing world and many global challenges that people are facing, including climate and war. So we need to be able to respond.”
It is understood most Georgian international protection applicants are availing of visa-free travel to the EU mainland before getting a flight to Ireland. Georgia is considered a safe country of origin by Ireland and most other EU states, and the success rate of international protection applications is extremely low.
In 2019, immigration procedures were amended in light of increasing reports of passports being destroyed in transit. Passport checks were moved to the steps of some arrival flights to prevent people disposing of their documents before they reached immigration.
This led to an increase in people being refused leave to land and being put back on flights for return to their destination. This measure was later scaled back.
A Department of Justice spokesman said it does not comment on Border Management Unit operational procedures. He said the reasons for the increasing numbers of asylum seekers were multifaceted and included a resumption of international travel after the pandemic and policy changes in other countries which “may be creating the perception of a less welcoming immigration and international protection environment”.
The war in Ukraine is having an indirect impact, he said, as the resulting refugee crisis has left some EU states with reduced capacity to support asylum seekers from other countries.
The department is examining the factors causing the increase and “will continue to take all necessary steps to manage the international protection process efficiently and effectively, as part of the broader whole-of-government response”.