Most people refused entry to Ireland from Brazil, Albania, US and South Africa

Data shows steady annual increase in numbers being refused leave to land in the State

Most people refused entry at Irish air and sea ports in 2016 were Brazilian, Albanian, US and South African citizens, according to statistics released by the Department of Justice.

A total of 1,073 women and 2,229 men were refused leave to land during 2016, according to the data released by the Department of Justice under a Freedom of Information request.

Some 483 Brazilian, 408 Albanian, 239 United States, 231 South African and 132 Pakistani citizens were refused leave to land in Ireland last year, marking a continued rise in the numbers of non-European Economic Area citizens being denied entry into the State. People who are refused leave to land are returned to their point of embarkation.

While the vast majority of Albanians denied entry into Ireland were male, the number of Brazilians refused leave to land was almost split equally between men and women – 266 men and 217 women – in 2016. A significant number of Afghanis, Zimbabweans and Nigerians were also denied entry in 2016.


In 2015, some 351 Brazilians, 338 Albanians, 252 South Africans, 166 United States citizens, 127 Pakistanis and 123 Nigerians were denied entry at both Irish air and sea ports. Some 118 Chinese, 96 Afghanis, 70 Zimbabweans, 68 Ukrainians and 52 Syrians were also refused entry.

The number of Bolivians refused entry increased fourfold from 29 people in 2015 to 128 in 2016.

In 2014, 252 Albanians, 168 South Africans, 156 Brazilians, 110 Chinese and 109 Malawians were blocked from entering.

Refused permission

The Immigration Act 2004 sets out 11 grounds on which an individual can be refused permission to enter the State, including if the he or she has a previous conviction for a serious offence or is not in possession of a passport. An immigration officer may also refuse permission to a foreign national if satisfied the individual’s entry or presence in the State could pose a threat to national security or “be contrary to public policy”.

If a person is refused leave to land at an Irish port, the carrier is responsible for returning that person to their port of embarkation.

Refugee support groups have raised concern over the lack of transparency around the immigration process at Irish airports. A spokeswoman for the Irish Refugee Council expressed concern about the "mechanisms" being used to block entry and warned that many people were being refused leave to land when they had "very little opportunity of access to legal advice and have no clarity around their rights".

"Close to 4,000 people were refused leave to land in Ireland last year, many of whom come from countries that we know are in volatile or lawless situations, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Somali, Eritrea, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Sudan, " said the spokeswoman, adding that all people refused leave to land should be provided with information on international protection in a language they understand.


The Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) said that without transparency it was impossible to know whether people were being turned away for legitimate reasons.

Asked to comment on the rise in numbers being refused entry into Ireland, a spokesman for the Department of Justice said entry requirements had not changed but highlighted the increase in passenger numbers.

“As a percentage of all incoming air passengers to the State [most refusals are at airports], the 2016 figure represents 0.025 per cent of passengers – the percentage for 2015 is roughly the same at 0.023 per cent,” he said. “Therefore, as a percentage of incoming passengers there has been little significant change in numbers refused permission to enter the State.”

Sgt Jim Molloy at the Garda Press Office said the decision to permit or refuse entry into Ireland was a matter for the immigration officer. He also said the number of people seeking to enter Ireland had seen a “periodic increase” year on year.

Civilian staff from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service took over passport control at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 1 in 2015 and in October 2017 responsibility for border control in Terminal 2 was also handed over to civilian staff.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast