Deportations: Garda immigration officers flew back business-class

Department of Justice says vast majority of flights by officers are economy class

The Department of Justice said business class fares were booked while repatriating deportees where it was deemed a security risk for a garda to leave an airport.  Photograph: Getty Images

The Department of Justice said business class fares were booked while repatriating deportees where it was deemed a security risk for a garda to leave an airport. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Garda immigration officers have travelled on business class flights while returning home from deporting illegal immigrants out of the country, a Freedom of Information (FoI) query has revealed.

The Department of Justice, which released details of the flights under FoI, said business class fares were booked while repatriating deportees where it was deemed a security risk for a garda to leave an airport.

Flight tickets for the return leg of journeys – with single fares costing several thousand euro – allow Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) officers to stay in the airport lounge in the country where they are leaving deportees.

A Department of Justice spokesman said the vast majority of flights by GNIB officers were economy class.

Of the dozens of business class trips involving the chaperoning of illegal immigrants to their return destinations last year, several were to cities in Europe, including flights to Frankfurt listed as costing €19,600 and separately €3,800.

There were also fares to Amsterdam reaching €11,000, €7,300 and €4,400.

The Department of Justice said the Frankfurt flight costing €19,600 covered four GNIB officers travelling back from Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. The €11,000 and €7,300 flights to Amsterdam were also return trips from Lagos, and covered three officers, the spokesman said.

The records show there was also a business class flight to Abu Dhabi costing €6,000 and frequent business class flights to Istanbul costing tens of thousands of euro in total.

The department spokesman said the Abu Dhabi flight was from Lahore in Pakistan and covered two GNIB officers.

“Istanbul appears so much because it is a major hub for returns from many southeast Asian and Middle Eastern destinations.”

GNIB officers usually travel in pairs when chaperoning a deportee back to a return country. Sometimes they travel in greater numbers if it is deemed necessary under particular security circumstances.

Cost of the flights

Last year bills totalled €164,865 for business class flights. The spokesman added that the State can recoup 75 per cent of the cost of the flights from the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

Almost 50 flights during 2018 were listed as business or first class, although 13 of these were cancelled and one was misclassified, according to the Department of Justice.

“All 36 business class flights relate to situations where GNIB officers are accompanying people being removed from the State on foot of deportation orders,” the spokesman said. “Business class flights are booked where it is considered by An Garda Síochána that it would be a security risk for Irish officers to leave the airport in the destination country and to stay overnight in a hotel.

“By booking business class flights the officers can stay in the airline’s lounge until a return flight leaves to one of the European hubs. An economy class flight is then booked from the European hub back to Dublin.

“We understand that many EU member states apply the same practice for their officers on return operations.”

There were 860 “repatriation” flights booked last year. Destinations included Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nepal, Panama, Qatar, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.