Coalition warned not to fuel ‘anti-migrant narratives’ in statements on immigration

Bodies representing refugees and immigrants warn against recent uses of language

The Government has been warned over its language in the politically charged debate about immigration, with the Irish Refugee Council calling for an overhauled communications plan from the Coalition.

Nick Henderson, the council’s chief executive, told The Irish Times: “We warn against the use of some language that has drifted into Government statements”.

He called out “terms such as ‘false story’ and ‘illegally coming to our country’”. He said people were “often forced to travel in a way that requires them to travel in illegal or irregular ways, including using a smuggler who may take a passport back off the person when travelling”.

“There is an urgent need for a communications plan for Government on this issue – why it is important to offer protection, how that is done and to who. And how and when we communicate with communities where people are being accommodated.”


Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, acknowledged the State’s responsibility to ensure a robust immigration system, but cautioned against “inadvertently feeding into anti-migrant narratives”.

He said: “Centring the conversation around perceptions of fraud, for example, risks diminishing the complex reality of people fleeing all manner of human rights issues”.

On Sunday the Taoiseach acknowledged there was a need to be “careful” with language on migration, and that remarks he made on Ireland’s policy being “hard” were in reference to human traffickers, not migrants.

Leo Varadkar told RTÉ radio there was a need to be fair with applicants, but firm. “We need to say to people if you’re going to come to Ireland with a false story or on false pretences, we will try to prevent you from entering in the first place, and after that we will make sure that your application is dealt with quickly.”

“People in Ireland understand that migration has been a good thing for our country ... but they also want to know that migration is being properly managed and there are controls,” he said. He suggested projections that as many people could come to Ireland seeking protection this year as in 2022 would prove to be wide of the mark – with a level of 30,000-40,000 more likely.

It comes as newly released data shows about 40 per cent of the 161 deportation orders approved by the State in 2023 related to people from Albania and Georgia.

Last week Minister for Justice Simon Harris said the Government was working to “accelerate” processing applications. Efforts to tighten up procedures include the resumption of deportations and passport spot checks. Mr Harris said on Sunday that 964 fines had been issued to airlines where passengers had presented without documents.

Department of Justice figures show people from Albania and Georgia made up the top two places in terms of the number of deportation orders and refusals of international protection.

Of 161 deportation orders this year, 39 related to people from Albania and 28 from Georgia. People from Pakistan were next with 21, followed by Afghanistan (13).

Deportation processes only resumed following the Covid-19 pandemic in September of last year, with 528 in 2022.

The nationalities of those subject to deportation orders last year include Pakistan (131), Albania (127) and Georgia (84). Separately, some 260 international protection applications were refused in first-instance determinations made last month, of which almost 62 per cent were people from Georgia (93) and Albania (68). Twelve other people from Georgia were granted some form of international protection last month once their applications were assessed.

They were among 193 people in the immigration system who were approved for a first-instance grant of refugee status, subsidiary protection or permission to remain in January.

Others granted international protection last month included 33 people from Afghanistan, 21 from Zimbabwe and 18 from Somalia.

So far this year some 1,573 people have applied for international protection, with Algeria (237), Nigeria (223) and Georgia (172) making up the top three.

Deportation orders are issued when an individual’s claim has been refused and appeals have been exhausted.

The Department of Justice said three deportations relating to failed asylum applications had been effected in 2023.

It said many people subject to deportation orders left the State without notifying the authorities. It said the processes were “an essential part of any immigration system”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times