Deportations of those denied asylum to resume this year, Government confirms

Move comes amid concern about escalating asylum claims: almost 6,500 applications this year compared to 2,649 in 2021

Deportations of people who have had their claims for asylum in Ireland rejected are set to recommence, the Department of Justice has confirmed.

Having been suspended at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, deportations are to resume this year amid a sharp increase in numbers seeking asylum in the Republic.

“With the lifting of public health restrictions and a return to more normal travel, it must be acknowledged that those who do not have a legal right to remain in this country must return to their own country,” the department said in a statement, stressing that any deportations would only take place following “fair procedure and having gone through all available avenues for appeal”.

“Where a person does not voluntarily return to their own country, Ireland, like all other EU Member States, puts in place arrangements to return persons to their home country. It is expected that those arrangements will resume in 2022,” it added.

There have been almost 6,500 applications for asylum, or international protection, to the Irish authorities this year, compared to 2,649 during all of last year — an increase which some Government officials believe has been influenced by the increasingly harsh approach the UK is taking on asylum seekers.

The British scheme would mean asylum seekers sent to Rwanda where they could then have their requests for international protection assessed and potentially be given refugee status. But the scheme was stalled when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) made a late intervention after lawyers for one of the asylum seekers due to fly to Rwanda two weeks ago made a successful emergency application to the ECHR. Subsequently, the British government said it would introduce laws enabling it to depart from decisions of the court.

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Deportation orders are only issued in the State when an individual has had their claim for international protection refused and when any appeals have been exhausted. Enforcement of the orders is a matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau, the department said, and under international law nobody can be returned to a country in which they would be at risk.

Only a small minority of deportation orders are enforced by the Garda. In 2019, the last year deportations took place, there were more than 2,000 such orders issued, but just 298 were enforced. In 2018, there were 1,117 orders issued and 163 enforced.

However, there is growing awareness in Government that the number of people seeking international protection has grown sharply since the lifting of the pandemic-related travel restrictions.

There were 4,781 applications for asylum in 2019, but that number fell to 1,566 the following year as the pandemic took hold. So far this year there have been 6,498 applications, according to the department.

These are separate from arrivals from Ukraine, which have been granted automatic rights of residency here.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times