Applications for asylum in Ireland decrease significantly

Drop in numbers occurred before Ireland was severely impacted by coronavirus

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said some new arrivals at Dublin Airport were destroying false documents before presenting themselves at immigration checks. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said some new arrivals at Dublin Airport were destroying false documents before presenting themselves at immigration checks. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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The number of applications for international protection, or asylum, in Ireland decreased significantly in the first two months of the year as applications from Georgians and Albanians dropped.

In January and February a total of 552 migrants from a large number of countries claimed international protection in the Republic, down 27 per cent on the first two months of last year and a reversal of increasing numbers since 2015.

Justice sources said they were hopeful a drop in the numbers would be sustained and would decrease pressure on the direct provision system, which has become crowded. Conditions in direct provision have been strongly criticised by human rights campaigners.

Garda-led operation

Garda and other sources noted the drop in numbers in the first two months of the year had occurred before Ireland and most other countries were significantly impacted by coronavirus. Instead, the sources said, the fall in numbers had occurred because the large number of Albanians and Georgians coming to Ireland to apply for international protection had been slowed to a trickle by a Garda-led operation.

Last November, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said many Albanians and Georgians were entering Ireland using false travel documents. They were coming in such numbers, he said, they were driving the overall increase in the number of people of all nationalities applying for international protection.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said some new arrivals at Dublin Airport were destroying false documents before presenting themselves at immigration checks.

Before either Mr Varadkar or Mr Flanagan made their comments, some immigration checks at Dublin Airport were moved out onto the tarmac. When disembarking passengers were found without the proper travel documents they were refused entry. Airlines were also obliged to fly those people back out of Dublin Airport.

Gardaí said this had resulted in airlines more closely checking passengers when they boarded flights for Dublin. Together with investigations in the Republic into people aiding people smuggling, gardaí said, applications for international protection from Albanians and Georgians had plummeted.

Last September 191 applications for protection were made by Albanians and 117 were made by Georgians; the highest monthly totals for both nationalities. By the end of the year, that was reduced to low single digits; just four applications from Albanians and four from Georgians last December.

After news of the operation targeting Albanians and Georgians emerged in The Irish Times late last year, it was soon discontinued though the number of applications for protection from people of either nationality has been very low.

In January and February last year, Albanians and Georgians made 224 applications; more people than from any other country. However, they do not feature in the top five countries for applications made in January and February of this year.

Immigration checks

The Immigrant Council of Ireland has said the Irish authorities could not refuse entry into the Republic to anyone who wished to apply for international protection.

“This is one of the most fundamental rights set out in the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as Irish and European Law,” Colin Lenihan, the council’s information and support service co-ordinator, previously said in reply to queries.

When asked by The Irish Times about the performing of immigration checks at the steps of aircraft, the European Asylum Support Office nations were permitted to carry out such actions “as long as those who wish to apply for international protection have the opportunity to do”.

A response to queries about whether every Albanian and Georgian was given the opportunity to apply for international protection before being refused entry into the Republic was last night awaited from Garda Headquarters.

However, Garda sources pointed out that applications, though much smaller in number, were still being made by Georgians and Albanians. They said this was proof that no one nationality was being singled out and refused permission to apply.