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Number refused entry to State by immigration authorities increases

Some 7,455 denied entry or ‘leave to land’ in Ireland last year, up from 4,797 in 2018

While entry refusals grew generally, last year’s rise is largely down to tougher checks on Albanian and Georgian nationals in the final months of the year.

The number of people refused permission by immigration authorities to enter the State through air and seaports and across the Border increased by more than half last year, figures from the European Union’s statistics agency show.

Eurostat said 7,455 people were denied entry or “leave to land” in Ireland last year, up from 4,797 in 2018.

The top 10 nationalities denied entry were people from Albania (1,730), Brazil (720), South Africa (580), Bolivia (275), Georgia (275), China (255), the US (210), Zimbabwe (175), Pakistan (120) and India (100). The same nationalities have consistently been among the most commonly denied entry over the past decade.

While entry refusals grew generally, last year’s rise is largely down to tougher checks on Albanian and Georgian nationals in the final months of the year.

Both countries are classified by Ireland as “safe countries of origin”, meaning the State does not regard Albania or Georgia as places from which nationals need protection.

International protection

Immigration checks were moved to the steps of the plane late last year, preventing these nationalities from making applications for international protection, though the policy has been criticised by a number of migrants’ rights groups.

The then minister for justice Charlie Flanagan said the change was in response to some immigrants destroying fake documents once they disembarked from planes but before reaching passport control, where some would then apply for international protection.

The number of Albanian nationals refused entry almost tripled last year, while the number of Georgian nationals refused entry increased by 25 per cent.

Applications for asylum from both nationalities dropped significantly after the new policy was introduced. Eighty per cent of the total refusals occurred at Dublin Airport.

Prison figures

Separate figures from the Irish Prison Service (IPS) show the number of people held in prison for suspected immigration offences rose by nearly a fifth last year. A total of 477 people of various nationalities were detained for suspected immigration offences, up from 406 in 2018.

More than half, 57 per cent, did not have a valid visa, while 22 per cent failed, or were suspected of failing, to have a valid passport.

People of five nationalities – Albanian, Brazilian, Pakistani, Nigerian and Georgian – accounted for more than half of the numbers detained.

The Department of Justice said extra checks were imposed following a sharp rise in the numbers of people travelling on false documents. An Garda Síochána said “prompt arrangements” exist to send people back when breaches were detected.

The rise in detention numbers was “very worrying”, the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland’s Isabel Toolan said.

Ireland is one of the few EU countries to regularly detain people in prison for immigration offences. An immigration detention centre at Dublin Airport remains unused 14 months after its scheduled opening.

The detentions are “made worse by accommodating these men and women in crowded prisons, where cell-sharing is the norm”, said the Irish Penal Reform Trust’s Fíona Ní Chinnéide. Nasc, the migrant and refugee centre, has criticised the lack of access to legal representation and the lack of an appeals route.