Five deportation orders issued so far in 2021 compared to 883 in 2020 – data

Nearly 130 orders have been revoked since December 2020, says Department of Justice

Some 127 deportation orders were revoked between December 1st, 2020 and April 25th, 2021. Photograph: iStock

Some 127 deportation orders were revoked between December 1st, 2020 and April 25th, 2021. Photograph: iStock

 

The Government has only issued five deportation orders so far this year while nearly 130 orders have been revoked since last December, according to data released by the Department of Justice.

A total of 883 deportation orders were issued during 2020, according to figures released to The Irish Times. However, just five orders have been issued during the first four months of 2021 following a decision to suspend deportations while Level 5 restrictions were in place.

Meanwhile, 127 deportation orders were revoked between December 1st, 2020 and April 25th, 2021.

Nineteen Pakistanis, 18 Nigerians, 17 Brazilians, 11 Chinese nationals, 10 Filipinos, nine Georgians and seven South Africans have been told since last December they no longer have to leave the country along with 36 others from different countries.

The overturning of the orders follows the high profile cases of two female healthcare workers from Zimbabwe who worked in nursing homes throughout the pandemic and learned last October their leave to remain applications had been rejected. The order to deport the women was reported internationally with CNN leading with the headline “they saved lives during the pandemic – now they’re facing deportation from Ireland”.

‘Pragmatic’ approach

Speaking in the Dáil in November, the Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon asked Taoiseach Micheál Martin: “Given the fact that we are going through a pandemic, that we said we are all in this together, that we all suffer together, is now not the time to draw a line under that and to stop the deportations of people who are here who contribute to the healthcare system?”

In January, both women learned their orders had been revoked and they were given leave to remain in Ireland.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said it was taking a “pragmatic and compassionate approach to immigration arrangements” in the context of Covid-19 and that deportations were not being enforced during the pandemic “except in cases where an individual may be a threat to national security and whose presence in Ireland would be contrary to the public interest”.

The issuing of deportation orders has been suspended while Level 5 restrictions are in place, he added. He could not confirm how many of the 127 orders revoked in recent months were connected to healthcare workers.

A total of 140 deportation orders were effected in 2020, significantly lower than the 298 orders carried out in 2019. This drop was due primarily to an easing back of operations in this area during the pandemic.

Charity*, one of the Zimbabwean healthcare workers, says she felt exhausted rather than happy when the order was overturned. “I didn’t jump for joy when it came, I just kept re-reading it,” she told The Irish Times. “Most people celebrate when these papers arrive but to be honest I didn’t feel happy. I just thought I shouldn’t have had to go through all of this.”

Online help

Charity came to Ireland seeking asylum in 2016 and started working in 2019, the year after the right to work for asylum seekers was introduced.

She eventually secured a job at a nursing home and started a course in social care. When the pandemic hit, she moved into temporary hotel accommodation arranged by the HSE to avoid bringing the virus from her work back to the direct provision centre where she lived, or vice versa. After four months in the hotel, she moved in with a friend closer to work.

“I was nervous and afraid. I had read about NHS doctors dying from the virus and asked myself ‘if I die what will happen to me as an asylum seeker in Ireland with no papers?’ But at the end of the day the nursing home residents were like the family I didn’t have in Ireland. They needed me to stay and look after them.”

In October 2020, Charity received a letter which stated her appeal for international protection had been rejected and she had to leave the country.

“I found a solicitor online immediately, I didn’t know her but I needed someone to help. When I showed her all my supporting documents she was surprised and said this wasn’t supposed to happen.”

In early January, Charity received a letter informing her the order had been revoked and she had been granted leave to remain. “It’s been a scary time but to be honest, I think Covid has made me stronger. After working with patients who had the virus and seeing them fighting it, I realised we all had the strength to fight back.”

*Charity requested that her surname not be used in this article